May 2, 2010

Lost works of Sir Noel Coward

My good friend Kate appeared in a long-running show recently in Chicago called Oh, Coward, which got glorious reviews (that's just one of them). A three-person cabaret night, devoted to the works of Noel Coward. It felt like she was in that show forever. When I went to visit Chicago late last fall, it was up and running and it just closed.

What do you do when you are in what is, perhaps, the longest run of a show ever known to man?

First of all: you bond with your cast mates in a manner unprecedented.

Two: You make a video like the one below. "Lost works of Sir Noel Coward".

I have no idea how any one of them kept a straight face for even one second.

"Well .... look at them ..."

They are all ASSHOLES, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. I love when Kate reaches out and sort of rubs her fellow actor's shoulder, in support of the deadpan BULLSHIT he just put out. Like, "Yes, yes, lovely, well done."

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April 9, 2010

Nothing like old old friends

Today is my friend Jackie's birthday. We have known each other since college. We have had many MANY adventures together. We're getting together for lunch today, with Brooke - another old friend from college. I wrote of her here. We have planned this lunch for a month and a half. It's been rescheduled multiple times. They both came to my reading back in October, which was awesome, but we haven't all been in the same place at the same time since.

Two photos below the jump. One is rather famous in my group of friends.

Here is one of the strangest photos ever taken in the history of the medium. Me, Mitchell, Jackie, and Bill and Lee - somehow we crashed a big formal party of a Christian youth group that was happening at the Marriott in Providence. We had ZERO business being there. We all got dressed up. We danced on a crazy dance floor surrounded by gyrating Christians. We messed with people's minds. Everyone asked, "So who do you know?" We would make shit up. We were not supposed to be there.


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Guys. Go home. You weren't invited.

And here is a potluck supper we had at the theatre department. I was a freshman. Jackie was a sophomore and I believe Brooke was, too - or maybe a junior. I was on the road to being friends with Brooke, although Rimers (a couple of months in the future) hadn't happened yet. But Jackie I didn't know at all. We had been in the Christmas show together, but we literally never spoke to one another. Not that hard to do, since it was a cast of thousands, with live animals and children on stage, and every scene a crowd scene. I am in the green sweater over to the left. Brooke is standing, over to the right, returning from the buffet table. And Jackie sits sort of behind me. She remembers that day. She didn't really know anyone, and felt really left out, and ended up sitting with someone who was perfectly nice, but not at all who she wanted to be sitting with. She wanted to be sitting with US. It's a tragic photo, in a way. Jackie and I re-enacted it many years later, with Jackie staring longingly at my table, like, "Can I sit with you guys? I'm cool too!!" Every time I look at this photo, I want to tell my younger self to turn around and talk to the blonde girl sitting RIGHT BEHIND YOU. I want to shout, "She is going to be a REALLY IMPORTANT FRIEND, Sheila - so why don't you start now?? You won't regret it!"


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By the next year, there would be no way on earth that Jackie and I would NOT be sitting together. Miracles do happen and people DO find each other!

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March 28, 2010

Happy birthday Alex

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Alex. Photo by Sheila

Alex is one of my best friends in the world. Today is her birthday. I thought in honor of this momentous occasion, I would re-post (in all its parts) the crazy day we had in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. And when I say crazy, I mean it involved scrunchies and suddenly failing car-brakes near the Hollywood Bowl. It involved jazz hands, and many Armenians. It involved a dead body on the sidewalk lying in a pool of blood. It also involved (peripherally) Timothy Treadwell. There was a boa, McNuggets inhaled at the speed of light, and at one point, we both found ourselves hooked up to e-meters on Hollywood Boulevard. Because that's what happens when you have a crazy day. You submit to e-meter analysis in broad daylight.

The only way to read it is to read it sequentially.

It is, bar none, the craziest day I have ever had. It's also one of my most favorite days. It takes some time to read, but it is worth it. I don't exaggerate one bit. It is part of a series called Things Experienced So Far in LA.

Happy birthday, Alex. I love you!

Things Experienced So Far in LA
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10


I would also like to share with you another crazy day we shared, when we took a private tour of the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibit on Hollywood Boulevard. We were on a mission of infiltration. It involved a stakeout beforehand. It was a brilliant day.

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March 18, 2010

Allison: What I miss

-- I miss our weekend-long hideouts in your apartment where we would watch, oh, the entire British Office, or Slings and Arrows, or, hell, some Forensic Files you had saved, and we could stop and pause and talk about it. I miss you saying things like, "I just want to see some murder", as you would scroll through the TV Guide.

-- I miss our talks about books.

-- I miss the support we give each other (although we can certainly support each other long-distance - it's the PROXIMITY I miss). I miss the unspoken understanding.

-- I miss the breadth and depth and scope of our conversations, ranging from our various mental breakdowns, the men we were in love with, to articles in The New Yorker, to funny stories about our pets, to long conversations about movies/art/photography.

-- I miss how much we would HOWL with laughter together. Looking up pictures of Hitler in the dictionary and crying with laughter at how mad he looked? How on earth could that ever be explained? Never mind. It was awesome.

-- I miss the excursions we would take, and if you ever move back here, we are going to do more of them. Let's go to MOMA. Let's go to the Met. Let's go walk in Central Park.

-- I miss the absolutely identical sense of humor that we apparently share. That is no small feat. I never had to explain to you why something was funny or awesome. I am thinking of me re-telling you my long story of getting my car out of hock. You just GOT the subtext.

But what do I miss most?

The regular occurrence of moments like the one we just shared on the phone:

Me: Have you been watching Celebrity Rehab?
You: Of course.
Me: You know who I love? And I can't even believe I'm saying this.
You: Who.
Me: Heidi Fleiss.
You: I knew you would say that.
Me: I love her so much.
You: I have goosebumps right now.

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February 4, 2010

Bloody Marys, Michael Jackson, rocks in the tub, and a random object from the cellar

During my second week on Block Island, the ferry brought me some visitors: Mitchell, Luisa and Meghan. Mitchell was in Rhode Island for 5 days and so they took the ferry out and spent the day with me. They arrived in the morning and left at sunset. It was one of those days that catapulted us out of normal time. Normal time didn't seem to exist. The day lasted forever. We barely ate, although we kept talking about eating. There were pastries brought from Providence (a big joke - "who's got the pastries?" "are you in charge of the pastry box?"), and I basically had a box of Triscuits. The thought that we could "grab some lunch", as though there were a sandwich shop open, was foolhardy, since NOTHING is open out there. I had stuff to make sandwiches, I had salad stuff, I even had some chicken - but we just never got around to eating. We were too busy drinking highly complicated Bloody Marys, cavorting all over the house, sitting out on the porch and talking, blasting music and dancing around, and bickering constantly. "SHEILA. SHEILA. SHEILA. SHEILA." shouted Luisa at me, to get my attention when I was talking to Mitchell. Finally I was like (on the verge of hysterics) - "Luisa ... what? That is not socially acceptable behavior ..." We all lost it. We decided to make Bloody Marys, so we stopped off at the grocery store after I picked them up at the ferry. Luisa decided to just have whiskey, so the image of Luisa, walking out of the grocery store, with a bottle of whiskey in a bag, and it wasn't even noon yet, was just awesome. Mitchell, thinking about Bloody Marys, said, "Oh, you know what would be good? Pickle spears." I replied, "Please don't get sexual with me. It makes me really uncomfortable."

Once back at my little abode, Mitchell, Meghan and I set about making Bloody Marys, which involved celery salt on plates, pickle juice, horseradish, tobasco ... it took a half an hour to make the drinks. Luisa who had poured herself a whiskey and sat down in the den called out to us, "I don't what YOU guys are doing, but I'M having my drink."

We sat around in my front room (with the rolltop desk) - a place I hadn't really spent any time in, but it was nice: my visitors warmed it up for me. There was so much laughter that I am surprised the house did not actually elevate up into the air with it. Luisa was describing her girlfriend's tub and how it "has rocks in it" - which freaked me out and I couldn't let it go. What Luisa actually meant was that it is a stone tub, with laid-out rocks beneath the surface, almost like a patio floor, but beneath the tile. But perhaps due to my Bloody Mary, I kept picturing pebbles in the tub, and I kept interrupting Luisa's story, like a halfwit. "She has ROCKS in her tub??" "Well, no, not like - it's like inlaid rocks beneath the --" "ROCKS? DO THEY HURT YOUR FEET?" Luisa kept trying, "No, it's more like it's underneath the --" I screamed at her, nervous and insecure, "Should I have rocks in my tub???" Like: is that a thing now? Is it a trend I need to be aware of?? The conversation, needless to say, had to stop, because I couldn't seem to understand what was happening, and Luisa was laughing too hard to go on.

The following morning, I woke up, getting used to the quiet and solitude once again, and I went into the upstairs bathroom to wash my face. I hadn't been in there the night before. As I walked in, something caught my eye, and I looked into the tub and there, lined up in a very scary Blair Witch kind of way, were three beach rocks. Placed there at some point during the day before by Luisa. The image of her doing this secretly, and then not telling anyone, leaving it there to be discovered by me, is so so funny to me.

Luisa loves cellars and wanted to go check out my cellar. I was afraid of the cellar. It looked like a place where you would be hacked to pieces by an intruder and never seen again. I was also afraid of the spiders. Luisa found a mop and stomped down into the cellar, whiskey in hand, to check out the cellar, and clear away cobwebs. Meanwhile, Mitchell, Meghan and I were dancing around to Michael Jackson in the kitchen. Luisa eventually returned, announcing, "Cobwebs are gone." She was holding something behind her back. "Guess what I found," she said. I stepped back, fearfully. And when she brought out what she had found ... it took us all a minute to even understand what it was that we were seeing. We were stunned.

I will not describe it, because the visual is best. The object appears in the montage below, and it will be immediately obvious what it is. The object became our mascot. We placed it everywhere, taking pictures of it, laughing so hard tears streamed down our cheeks. We placed it on the bulkhead in the backyard so that it could stare at the psychedelic sunset. We were giddy. No doubt. Giddy with laughter and happiness.

We didn't even care that we didn't eat. Their ferry home was at 5:30, and at around 4:45, exhausted from all the housebound fun we were having (I had all these plans to take them to the Southeast Lighthouse, which never came to fruition because we were having too much fun taking pictures of each other and wearing goofy sunglasses) - someone said, "Did we even eat?"

No, we did not.

But it didn't matter at all. The whole day was a feast for the soul.


Meghan and Luisa coming off the ferry.


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Mitchell with his Bloody Mary.


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Meghan and Luisa, in my front room - the awesome chairs.


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Luisa with her drinks. It is 12:15 p.m.


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Meghan


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The sunglasses portion of our day has begun.


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The sunglasses portion of the day continues. Meghan said, when she saw this picture, "I think I can see my pancreas!"


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Luisa getting ready to go conquer the cellar


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Dancing around in my kitchen


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"Man in the Mirror" blasting at full volume


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Mitchell and Luisa. They have been friends since high school.


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The psychedelic sunset that night. Meghan looked up at it and said, "Really?? I mean ... really?"


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Carnage on the counter.


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And now. Here is what Luisa found in the cellar.


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You can see why we could not get enough of him. We put him EVERYWHERE. Here are Luisa and Meghan, struggling to not fall over from laughing, placing him on the bulkhead in back, facing the sunset.


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Hippie Man enjoys the view.


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So stupid. So so funny.

The next morning, I walked into my bathroom to see Luisa's handiwork, left for me to discover.


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Think where man's glory most begins and ends
And say my glory was I had such friends.

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November 12, 2009

Rimbaud's Son

A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.
-- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

I saw him again the other day.

He stood in front of the St. Mark’s Hotel in the East Village beside a straggly-haired woman showing the ravages of meth on her face, and he was talking at her fanatically, gesturing with his filthy hands, in a dreamspace of self-importance and grandiosity.

For a brief autumn I had dated him.

I met him the day J.F.K., Jr. disappeared. The body had not yet been found. I stood in line at the A&P deli counter, in Hoboken, wearing a backwards baseball cap, overalls, and hi-top sneakers. What I am trying to say is that the day J.F.K., Jr. disappeared, the day I met Thomas, I looked like a Peanuts character, not at all dressed for romance. Coincidentally (bizarre, considering what day it was), I happened to be reading Chris Matthews’ political biography of Kennedy and Nixon. I had my nose in the book as I stood in line, until I heard a tough-guy voice say, “It’s a shame, ain’t it?”

I looked up and there he was leaning on the other side of the deli counter, white apron on, looking right at me. I didn’t know what he was talking about or why he was talking to me.

“What’s a shame?” I asked.

“Shame about his son,” he said.

It did not escape my notice that the guy behind the counter was gorgeous in an overblown young-John-Travolta way. He had thick wavy black hair, he was about six feet tall, and his eyes were startling. A blazing green. His skin was pale, and he had strong Italian features. Total looker, not my type at all. My type runs towards pasty beefy Irish boys, not green-eyed matinee idols in white aprons.

“Whose son?” I asked.

He gestured at my book. “His son.”

I looked at my book, and then understood. “Oh! Yeah. It is a shame. Just awful.”

It struck me as notable that he would look up from slicing turkey, see Peppermint Patty waiting in line, glance at the title of her book, and then speak about it, as though in mid-conversation. Not “Is that a good book?” or “What are you reading?”

But “It’s a shame, ain’t it?”

Two days later when I saw him sitting on a bench outside the A&P, having a cigarette on a break, I took a second to get my courage up and then walked over to him.

He remembered me. We immediately started talking about J.F.K., Jr., who had by then been found.

He told me his name was Thomas.

Thomas was odd in a way I couldn’t quite place. It was like he was ten years old inside that handsome body, he had the same open-faced enthusiasm as a child, the same fearlessness with strangers. I am much more reserved.

In that first conversation, which lasted all of fifteen minutes, I learned that he loved Rimbaud and Henry Miller. He also loved Wallace Stevens and said to me, “With my white apron on in there, I feel like the goddamn Emperor of Ice Cream.” He did not come off as pretentious or as though he was trying to name-drop me to death. He was simple, open, free. He wanted to be a writer. I would later learn that he had written a novel (unpublished), and had stashed the manuscript with a friend who was a dishwasher at a pizza joint on 12th and Willow in Hoboken. “Yeah, I let him read it. He didn’t really understand it though. I need to get it back from him.”

That first day on the bench, he asked me for my phone number and I gave it to him. He called me the following day and we met up for drinks later that night. He showed up on the date with no money, and although I was willing to pay for a couple of beers, he told me he was going to “hustle” some drinks for us. It made me uncomfortable, especially when he returned from wherever he went, wielding two Heinekens. Had he begged? Pestered? So he actually was a hustler. We sipped our hustled beers and I listened to him talk. There seemed to be no pretense with him. It was disarming. He talked and talked and talked, flowing from one topic to the other, yet always connected to me. He picked up on every gesture I made, the smallest of expressions. I learned that he lived at the YMCA in Bayonne, a pretty bleak place, and he was on the waiting list for the YMCA in Hoboken, a step up. He told me he had lived in Union City for a while, but had to move because he thought that the person in the apartment across the way was flashing lights at him from window to window, trying to pass on some sinister message. “Union City is a bad place, man,” Thomas told me. “Even the light is evil there.”

He said at one point, out of nowhere, “I hate déjà vu. I feel like one day I’m gonna go into a déjà vu and never come out.”

Although much of what he revealed (in his speech, the stories he told, his actions) was alarming to me, we started dating. There were those blazing green eyes to consider.

But what really happened was this: I loved how he talked about books. I could not get enough of it. I grew up surrounded by language, and I grew up with parents who loved to read. In my family, you come home for a visit and two seconds after you are asked, “How are you?” you are asked, “So what are you reading?”

Thomas discovered literature late. He had not grown up in a family who valued language or education. His father was violent and cold, his mother simpering and ineffective. His older brother was in prison. Thomas put himself through college. He majored in English. His family thought going to college was a stupid thing to do, a waste of time, and majoring in English was flat-out insane. But Thomas was drawn to books, to words. His taste ran to the difficult and the surreal. He could be a snob about anything that was too “easy”.

Rimbaud was the hook for Thomas, his “way in” to the world of words. He had never encountered anything so thrilling. Thomas could talk about Rimbaud for hours, and he did. To anyone who would listen. Bartenders, strippers, co-workers who spoke no English, the ex-cons who lived with him at the Bayonne Y, people on the train. He always carried a battered taped-together paperback of Rimbaud’s work in his back pocket so that he could pull it out at a moment’s notice and read out loud the passage he wanted. Rimbaud was not a distant literary figure to Thomas, he was a companion. We’d be sitting my room, and Rimbaud would come up (as he always did) and Thomas would reach into his back pocket for the book, laughing at himself as he did so. “I get so excited I’m like a little kid.” Rimbaud wasn’t really my cup of tea, but it was riveting to hear Thomas proclaim Rimbaud’s words out loud, in my room on a rainy morning, on the A train, on my fire escape, on the steps of the YMCA:

And since then I’ve been bathing in the Poem of star-infused and milky Sea,
Devouring the azure greens, where, flotsam pale,
A brooding corpse at times drifts by.

The phantasmagorical imagery of Rimbaud’s writing seemed to express to Thomas what it was actually like for him, inside his own head. Rimbaud would certainly understand the flashing evil light of Union City. Rimbaud would also fall into a déjà vu and never come out.

Thomas talked about writers as though they had written their books specifically for him. He did not come to “the greats” with preconceived notions or the sense that he should be intimidated by them. He met them fresh. To hear him talk about Yeats or Eugene O’Neill or Shakespeare was, for me, like blood to a vampire. None of it was passive received knowledge. He took it personally. So personally that he tried to commit suicide in college after reading a book by Carlos Castanada. He had spent intermittent months in institutions since then, diagnosed as bipolar. His demons were strong, but he resisted medication even though it was supposed to help him not perceive flashing lights from an opposite window as ominous Morse code. He didn’t like the dulling effects of the meds, he didn’t like having no libido, he wanted to still see blazing lights, even if they were sometimes scary.

His attachment to me happened instantly. I became the normal sane thing in his crazy life. I would pick him up at the Y, and he could escape into the confines of my cozy apartment, where there was food in the cupboards, a TV to watch, a warm bed, and he could be fed and nurtured for a bit. But I don’t like clinging, and he clung. I was not allowed to have a day to myself because he would start to get frayed and confused when not in my presence. I would say to him, “I really am not the kind of person who needs to see someone every day. As a matter of fact, I am the opposite kind of person. I cannot see you tomorrow. I need some time to myself, goddammit.” But then at 8 a.m. the next morning, a knock would come on the door, and there he would be, pleading, “I won’t get in your way! You can have time to yourself. I’ll just sit in the other room and read or something! I won’t bother you!”

Right before I met him, Thomas’ father had been diagnosed with throat cancer, and instead of facing chemo and treatment he instead chose to shoot himself in the head in front of his wife and son. Thomas told me that no matter what he did he couldn’t shake the image of his father’s head exploding all over the living room. He would wake up screaming.

I was not really serious about Thomas. I was not in love with him. I was in love with the manner in which he approached literature, and I was in love with how he talked about it. But I didn’t take him seriously for one second as a mate. At that point in my life, I felt I could not “afford” another heartbreak, and it was safe to hang out with Thomas, because he would never hurt me. This was unfair of me. Thomas was madly in love with me although I never could tell if his feelings were genuine or if he was just clutching at a safe zone, someone to take care of him in the midst of his madness and chaos. He was a hustler, remember. He knew how to get his needs met. But still. It cannot be denied that when I had had enough of the 8 a.m. knocks on my door, the badgering and pleading, the irrational outbreaks, and the nonexistent sex, I cut him loose. He never saw it coming. I hadn’t realized as it was happening how much he had deteriorated in the short time I knew him, but when I looked back at our first meeting, the difference was startling. Being under my wing made Thomas feel he didn’t need to take his medication anymore, so he slowly began to fall apart. I got out just in time. To make matters worse, he pleaded with me to change my mind, grabbing onto me in my car, stopping just short of getting too rough, tears in his eyes, begging me. It was awful. I had to pry his hands off of me and push him out of the car. Slowly, shoulders hunched, he trudged back into the YMCA, and it tore at my heart to see him. I wondered what would happen to him. I now could see the evil ominous light that had driven Thomas from Union City. It followed him around.

A week or so later, he called me (collect). I was instantly angry. “Thomas, I told you. I am done with you.”

“I know, I know, sorry, but I just had to tell you that I have a whole new plan. I just can’t take Bayonne anymore. It’s getting me down, you know, and I’ve been reading Hemingway a lot, and you know, he really dug Key West, and I think I’m gonna go down and live there, where there’s no winter and people can just live. I can sleep on the beach, and I can write. I got my book back and I want to work more on it. Hemingway was real macho, but he was an artist, too. I think Key West is gonna be good.”

It sounded crazy, but it seemed right to me, too. “That sounds good, Thomas. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

He was manic. I could hear it in his voice. “Tennessee Williams loved Key West, too,” he babbled on. “And he was gay and everything, but that’s the thing about Key West – it can handle the two poles of masculinity” (his exact words) “ – the Hemingway and the Tennessee Williams – so it can handle me, too. I don’t want to be tough all the time like I have to be here.”

Of course Thomas had an angle in calling me. He always had an angle. All he needed from me, one last thing, was money for a one-way bus ticket to Florida. I hesitated. It wouldn’t be a lot of money, but I had already bailed him out financially a couple of times (especially since he was fired from the A&P for getting violent with a customer and also for stealing some of the deli meats for himself). But he pleaded. “This is the last time I ask you for money, I swear. And I’ll pay you back every penny.”

I gave him the money and Thomas hopped on a one-way ticket ride to the land where the Two Poles of Masculinity could remain in balance and he could hover between the two, Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams holding hands across the blazing white sand.

He called me once more after that (collect, of course) to tell me how things were going. He was dismayed to learn that sleeping on the beach was not allowed in Key West and the cops were really strict about it. He was homeless for a while, stashing his duffel bag with the book manuscript in places where he knew it would be safe. He washed dishes at restaurants, crossed paths with some sketchy characters who offered him money to strip in gay clubs or have sex with older tourist women. He finally was invited by a drug dealer he had met to crash on the couch at the drug dealer’s psychedelic home, full of swirling colored tiles and mannequins hanging from the ceiling draped in Mardi Gras beads. It was something out of a Tennessee Williams play. Thomas had reached the Camino Real. It sounded, frankly, terrible to me, way worse than what had been going on for him in Bayonne, but Thomas talked about it all as though he got a kick out of the whole thing.

I asked, “So how’s that whole Two Poles of Masculinity thing going for you?” I asked.

“You know what is so weird about that, Sheila? Key West is full of roosters and stray cats. They’re everywhere. They walk like they own the streets. But I like to think of them as cocks and pussies. Everywhere you look here are cocks and pussies.” He started laughing at his own pun.

“You’re crazy. You should write all that down.”

“I go hustle drinks at Sloppy Joe’s and sit in the seat where Hemingway used to sit. It’s the island of misfit toys down here.”

I hung up with Thomas, imagining him sitting in Hemingway’s chair, surrounded by cocks and pussies, and I figured that was that. He sounded cheerful, at any rate, and at least he was out of my hair.

One wintry day a year later, I was walking down the street in Hoboken, and I glanced at a grubby figure lying in a doorway, got one glimpse of the bright green eyes, and stopped, jolted to a standstill. My heart pounded. That couldn’t be him … could it? Why was he here? He was supposed to be in Key West. When did he come back? What happened? He was so filthy I couldn’t be sure it was him, so I circled the block to take another look. I wasn’t sure why I was so frightened. It was terrible to imagine him being so lost like that. I confirmed, in my second walk-by, what I had known from the moment I saw the green eyes. It was him. The homeless man lying in the doorway was Thomas. I was upset, but what shocked me the most, scared me the most, was that his thick black hair had gone completely white in just a year. He was an old man. Whatever grip he had had on reality when I knew him was obviously gone. He was talking to himself, muttering in a cranky self-righteous way. He had his hand out for change and his fingers looked like something out of a Walker Evans photo. The light in his eyes was no longer sane. It was now unearthly, floating about untethered, never landing in one spot. The “azure greens” were now unhinged, staring at “flotsam pale” corpses 24/7. Union City got him after all.

I did battle with myself. Should I speak to him? Remind him of the freckled girl in overalls he had once cavorted with through the midnight streets of the East Village? Remind him of that one night when we were parched and couldn’t find an open deli, and Thomas grumbled, in an annoyed voice,

Water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!

Would he remember me, or was his madness one that had obliterated the past, wiping out everything along with the image of his father’s head in pieces on the sofa? I moved on, without speaking, pricked with guilt, shaken up for the rest of the day.

I kept my eyes peeled after that, giving each homeless person a second look to see if it was Thomas. But I didn’t see him again, at least not in Hoboken.

Years passed.

And then, the other day, as I mentioned, I saw him again, this time in Manhattan, hanging around on the corner outside that denizen of despair, the St. Mark’s Hotel. He was arguing with his meth-whore, giving her the business, and I stood back to watch. Thomas, that beautiful sensitive man I had once loved to listen to, staggered away from her, enraged, the over-oxygenated look of a religious madman on his face. He was smoking a cigarette, his clothes were falling apart. He was skin and bones.

As he lurched past me, close enough to touch, I found myself peering at his butt, battered jeans hanging off his hipbones. I had to check. For that dog-eared copy of Rimbaud. I know it’s naïve, but if he still had that book, I thought it might mean … something.

But what would it mean? What difference would it have made, ultimately? He still would be a homeless man, off his meds, staggering down the street.

Of course there was no book in his back pocket.

I almost hadn’t recognized that dirty white-haired man. It wasn’t just his appearance that had changed so much, although he had gone through a radical transformation. It was that the actual person looking out of those green eyes was different: He, the tough sweet guy behind the deli counter, was no longer in there, and the Rimbaud had probably been lost a long time ago.

On high roads in winter nights, without roof, without clothes, without bread, a voice gripped my frozen heart:
“Weakness …
those whom I met did not see me.”

But I saw. I saw.

It’s a shame, ain’t it.

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September 20, 2009

Go, Rachel!

My friend Rachel, whose last most important gig was hanging pictures in my hallway at my housewarming party, is an Emmy nominee this year for her brilliant work for Justin Timberlake when he hosted the ESPY's. If you saw that gig, then you know that the opening number ("I Love Sports") was an extravaganza of Broadway proportions (clip below), with a cast of hundreds. Rachel, with a writing team, wrote those lyrics, and created the bits that Timberlake performed with such gusto (he was awesome).

I remember sitting on the sea wall last year with Mitchell and Rachel, hearing all of her crazy awesome stories about that entire experience.

Now she's got an Emmy nomination.

I couldn't be more psyched and happy for her.

GO, RACHEL.

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September 4, 2009

Snapshots from the party last night

... celebrating the opening of my friend Jen's acting studio:

-- "She caught the piece of cheese cake ... with her esophagus."

-- I said hi to Johnny and within 2 seconds, I made some emphatic gesture and basically karate-chopped his plastic cup of wine out of his hand.

-- Nice long conversation with Dion, and then someone else entered the party, and Dion said, "Excuse me. I have to say hi to this guy. I have no idea who he is but we're the only two black people here. I have to say hi to him." The guy walks by and Dion greets him - "Hey, man, how are you? We're the only two black people here. I just had to say hi." The guy was SO funny in response - a bit taken aback, but friendly, they shook hands - everyone was guffawing. Like, "Hey! You and me! We're black!"

-- Nice conversation with Jen's mother. I haven't seen her in a long time.

-- "How are you? Having fun?"
"I'm a little bit stressed. I have BO right now."

-- Talking with Bob (an old friend, haven't seen him in years) about gratitude. Making space for it in our everyday lives.

The studio looks great. Jen hung movie posters on the wall - Jaws, Pulp Fiction - old friends were there and new, her family, and her students. We all huddled in the hallway, chit-chatting, drinking wine, and I saw some people I haven't seen in years. It was a really nice shindig, a success all around.

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June 26, 2009

In the mirror

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For one semester in college, Mitchell and I did not speak to one another. There was a Cold War going on between us, and we now refer to it as "the Bad Time". We were BEST friends, and yet we did not speak for 4 months.

We were doing a show, and once, before rehearsal, he and I found ourselves alone in the men's dressing room, which was a long concrete room, with showers, lockers, and a line of makeup mirrors down the middle. Nobody else was around. Everyone left us alone at this point - the tension so huge you could smell it in the air, like ozone. We were FURIOUS with each other. But really what was going on was that we were so sad, we were so sad that we were in a fight, and that we couldn't apparently be friends. I cried myself to sleep every night. I MISSED him. But I couldn't give in. I just couldn't.

And so he and I sat there in the now-emptied gray dressing room, tensely, quietly, not knowing what to say. Mitchell, to break the mood, turned on the boom box. We were all very into Michael Jackson's album "Bad" at the time. It was all we listened to. You got that? IT WAS ALL WE LISTENED TO. I am unable to listen to that album now without immediately being transported back in time, specifically to that very time in my life, that one semester in college, when Bad was on constant rotation and I was in an awful silent fight with my best friend.

So Mitchell put on Bad and "Man in the Mirror" came on.

And without discussing it, without a word between us, without a noticeable thawing in the air or anything, Mitchell and I started dancing to that song, separately - not together - We remained stridently separate - but we kept dancing, dancing until we were completely lost in it. It was one of those times when you become completely unself-conscious. You completely lose awareness of yourself as a body taking up space. It is like you become your spirit. That was what that 3 minutes was like for us, in the dressing room. We danced separately from one another, he on one side of the line of makeup mirrors, me on the other side. The music was transcendent, that chorus bursting forth at the end, the glimmering line of mirrors, his reflection dancing, mine ...

When the song ended, we turned the tape deck off, realizing that we both had kind of "been" somewhere. We were no longer really in the same emotional place.

The frozen silence between us had broken. There would be no more "bad time". Somehow, through those weird separate dances, Mitchell and I forgave each other. Without saying a word. We found joy again. Joy in being together. Through the course of the song, all bitterness disappeared into thin air. Dissolved into the mirrors, never really to return. We would still need to have conversations about our argument, we would need to apologize and let go, and talk about it ... but the real forgiveness began with no words, barely any eye contact even, dancing around to "Man in the Mirror" in the men's dressing room. Lost in it.

I cherish that memory with my friend, dancing like mirror-image whirling dervishes, looking at our reflections, forgiving each other.

Unbelievable live performance of "Man in the Mirror" below the jump from the 1988 Grammys. He "goes" somewhere by the end, he's off-course, he's improvising, it's an extraordinary moment.


Every time I hear that song, every time, I think of that dressing room, the echoey grey walls, blue lockers, the endless reflections, and Mitchell.


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June 25, 2009

Remembered Kindnesses #1

I can't really remember why I was so upset. It all seems pretty Gothic to me now. Like, wow, Sheila, I get that you are sad, but is that any reason to turn yourself into a weeping dybbuk?

It had to do with a man, of course, we shall refer to him as the "baby boomer" - but then there was also Michael, lying on the couch downstairs - and was I upset about Michael, too? I don't think so. I was never upset about Michael. He stands alone in the pantheon.

But I remember it was our last night in Ithaca and for some reason, the whole cast had to stay in one house our last night there (our temporaray lodgings no longer available?). For the run of the show, two of the boys had stayed in one apartment our whole time there, and the two girls stayed in a house - and during the course of our time in Ithaca we all had basically coupled up, two and two, so it worked out great. One couple would stay at the apartment, one would stay at the house, then we'd switch (neither spot was ideal, and everybody basically wanted to be in the house, a better deal, so every night after the show would involve the two sets of couples standing around negotiating who got to fuck where. "Look, we'll let you have the house for the weekend if you just take the apartment for tonight ..." etc.) - but basically how it all worked out was that wherever each couple ended up, we had the whole joint to ourselves. Absolutely perfect for new-romance shenanigans, of which there were many.

But that last night, we all had to cram into the one house - and there weren't enough beds, and I ended up having to take a single bed upstairs, in a room full of stuffed animals and rainbow stickers - and Michael slept on the couch downstairs - and my God, it was like a Sophie's Choice moment for me. It was like families being ripped apart due to a tuberculosis quarantine. My reaction to being separated from him was absolutely out of proportion - but then everything with me is out of proportion - but I actually have come to a new understanding of what is kindly called my "intensity' - and maybe I'll write about that later. It has to do with the knowledge of the soul. My response to things is actually NOT "out of proportion". It is, on the contrary, completely appropriate - my soul knew what was ahead. From when I was a very wee girl, it knew what was ahead. Michael slept on the couch downstairs, I climbed into the single bed surrounded by My Pretty Ponies, and I felt as though I was being shoved into some quarantined sick-tent by dudes wearing Hazmat suits, diagnosed with Ebola, ripped apart from my loved one, screaming in agony as we were separated. There was more going on though, and I guess I can remember some of it, although the details are murky and I am not quite sure why I was such a maniac.

I was in love with someone else, it hadn't worked out and I was fresh in the aftermath of that when I met Michael, who was a strapping youth of 20 years old. I robbed the cradle, happily, and basically snuck Michael into bars with me, I was there when he had his first sip of wine, I cooked for him, took care of him in a way, and while that all may sound condescending - it was one of the best relationships I've ever had. And Michael, a newbie in the ways of life, was - underage nonsense notwithstanding - an awesome boyfriend, he had the knowledge of the ages in his DNA, knew how to court, pursue, and, well, you know. All that OTHER stuff he was awesome at, too. And I, unlike in any other relationship I've had before or since, got to be a domestic hearth-mama. It was great. My heart was taken up with the heartbreak from the baby boomer, but boy did I love hanging out with my Gen X boyfriend. There's an essay here. The generational differences. This was not a situation either where I felt, "Okay, CLEARLY I can NEVER be serious about this 20 year old ... so let me just USE him as a distraction." I've had those romances and they're kind of ikky. Because inevitably the guy would get serious about me, and I knew in my heart, "what is your problem, dude? You HAVE to know this won't ever last." The thing with Michael was not that (obviously, if you look at our relationship now and through the years). The man asked me to marry him and I said YES, mkay? I hadn't seen him in three years when he proposed, via phone, leaving the proposal as a message on my damn answering machine, and I thought about it and said back to him, "You know what? Yes. I will marry you." Hijinx ensued and obviously we did not marry, but we had a profound bond (still do). This was not a bond that started AFTER we broke up, as often happens with men and women - who sometimes become better friends post-relationship. We hit the ground running. He was not just a distraction from what I had left behind. He was the real deal.

If I try to imagine myself back into that night surrounded by Barbies and dollhouses in the dark room, with my heart screaming in agony at being forcibly and CRUELLY separated from my boyfriend who was just downstairs, I know that I was afraid of leaving my dream-world of being in a show out of town behind. Going back to Chicago meant facing the music of life without the baby boomer, and I was terrified of that. The thing with the baby boomer had ended a mere week or so before I left town, and so I had always felt like my time away had been more like a criminal getaway than a professional opportunity. Going back, I suddenly knew that all of that would be waiting for me. I hadn't escaped. Or, I had momentarily, but it was a respite. Not a new beginning. It was just a breather before going back into the real shit. It's so long ago that the emotions are not at my fingertips, but I do remember lying in that stupid single bed and everything around my heart just burned. It literally burned. But I don't think I knew who I was sad about. Baby Boomer? Gen X-er downstairs? My empty life I would be returning to?

It was probably a mix but in that dark moment in that little girl's room, with the leaf shadows trembling on the wall, crouched against the wall, being encroached upon by dolls and teddy bears, all I was aware of was how far away Michael was downstairs, and how much I wanted to be with him. I ached! I burned for him! I yearned to get out of Ebola quarantine. I was out of my mind!! It seemed so unfair, globally unfair, like THERE WAS A CONSPIRACY AGAINST ME that we couldn't be alone with each other on our last night, I couldn't get over it, I burned, I ached, I was out of my mind! I wanted to be held so badly it was like a primitive imperative. Biological in nature. The fact that I was lying in the bed of a little girl just added to the sensation.

There's a funny moment in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind when Jim Carrey has suddenly become himself as a four year old. He stands in the oversized kitchen in his jammies and he says, "I want to be held!" Then, to himself, a flash of his old adult consciousness, "It's amazing how strong that need is!!"

For some of us, that need remains palpably strong, trembling on the surface of our interactions with each other. Others are better able to sublimate. Or, you know, they actually find a real person to hold them, and they share their bed with that person for many years, and so the yawning need is not so apparent. Because it's been fulfilled. Whatever. But for me, the need is, at times, unbearable. Obviously I BEAR it but that does not change the fact.

This is probably scarcity talking.

It's embarrassing to admit to it. It's embarrassing to admit to it, in general, and it's REALLY embarrassing to admit to it to a boyfriend (of the new variety). You might seem insane. Too "needy". Codependent. (The next time I hear the word "codependent", I'm taking out my crossbow. I've had it with that effing label. It is just a smokescreen for those who fear intimacy, a convenient label to put on people who have the balls to say the words, "You know what, I need this from you ..." You are under no obligation to fulfill that need, by the way, so YOU are the one who are "codependent". You are perfectly free to say, "I can't fulfill that need right now ..." but the mere act of ASKING for something is not codependent. Seriously, I'm taking out my crossbow right now thinking about how this word is over-used by those who are not qualified to understand basically anything.) But the thing about it is, I have internalized that anxiety. I fear being seen to be needy. Or "too much". I have been told openly I am "too much". Now, granted, not by the people who really matter. My friends, the men who have really gotten me ... I'm never "too much" for them. But it can't be denied that I am aware of my own "intensity" (kind term), and I have, on occasion, been punished for it. Meaning, rejected. I don't take rejection lightly. It hurts like a motherfucker. Of course. I am not alone in that. I fear abandonment. When it comes, when I am abandoned, the response is primal.

And that was what was going on in that dark room, with Michael downstairs. Michael was not abandoning me. But he might as well have been. That is what that separation felt like to me. The tide pulling back, inevitable, nothing will stop it, all I could see was the wreckage and lost hopes and dreams (wrapped up in the Baby Boomer), and now my dream-world was ending, and I was going to lose Michael, and I felt abandoned.

This is the stuff I never share. I protect everyone from this side of myself. It's too bleak, it makes people too worried, and nobody knows what to do. The cat is out of the bag right now, and this is where I LIVE now, it can't be hidden ... but at the time, in my night in quarantine, I struggled mightily with my own needs, which were so strong that the repression of those needs caused the burning in my chest area. That is what was happening. I just needed to be held. I wanted comfort. I wanted something to take the edge off. The edge would be waiting for me, make no mistake, I am not a dreamer, not really, and I understand that reality is rough. But sometimes, when things are really hard, it's nice to just have someone hold you and say, "It's going to be okay."

To me, this is the primary thing that relationships (good ones) can give. I have just been through a ruthless year. I have tons of support from family and friends, a posse of people circling the wagons, but that one-on-one thing, of coming home after a rough day, with a long night ahead of you, and having someone to, oh, watch TV with, go out to dinner with, get naked and comfort one another, or even have a snippy argument about car payments ... I have not had. Scarcity makes all of this even more stark.

I was a young woman when I was in Ithaca, burning with need and abandonment in that little girl's room. But I understand the rough road ahead. If I didn't understand it with my brain, my soul knew. Its worst fears have come true. It knew. It knew.

All I wanted to do was go downstairs and be with Michael. There was nothing else in my mind. Why was that so difficult? Our relationship was still relatively new, I had only known him a couple of months at that point. But our time in Ithaca had been a condensed and intimate affair. We saw each other every day, every night, we were together 24/7. We had nothing else to do, no other lives. We did the show at night, we made out all night, we went out to breakfast, we read in the park, we went to get ice cream, we went on hikes - there was no one else to hang out with, no distractions, we had no day jobs, no other obligations. It was surprisingly easy. Michael didn't play the "hot/cold" game. He didn't play games, in general. He was "hot", all the time. He wanted to be with me. He didn't manipulate my affections or take advantage of my obvious liking of him. He didn't act aloof, or over it, to make me crazy. Why would he do that? He liked me too. 20 year old boy but he understood that if you like someone, then, uhm, you do your best to be with them. You don't pull the exact opposite. I felt safe. I don't do well with games. My fear of abandonment is so acute that at the first sign of it - the first flapping of the wings of it on the horizon - I am outta there. Nope. And my instincts have rarely been wrong. I have been told, "Sheila, you are over-reacting," or "I think you're being premature" more times than I can count. I have been talked out of my certainty that something has happened, abandonment is coming ... and gotta say it: I have never been wrong yet. I am sensitive to shifts. Emotional shifts. I have always been so. I know when something has changed, even if nothing is said about it yet. The shoe may not have dropped yet, but it's coming. With Michael, I never felt some ominous shoe dropping on the horizon. He was into me. So yay, I got to be into him too. We do not operate in vacuums. It's a dance-step. I vet you, you vet me, we lay the groundwork saying, "It's okay to come out, it's safe ..." and you test each other, you show a bit more, "Is this okay? What do you think of this side of me?", and either the person shows up and shows you it's okay or they don't. You need to keep your bearings. I am very good at that. I am terrible at the aftermath, but I am very good at keeping my bearings during those opening salvos. So with Michael, I felt safe, and I got to dote on him, and take care of him, I got to roll around in the grass with him, I got to fight with him, and I got to lie in bed with him curled up in a pigpile until we went to sleep. It was awesome.

I didn't know why I couldn't just go downstairs. What was holding me back? I wanted to be with him. I was so sad. Monumentally sad. I had Ebola and I was being separated from those I love forever.

It is insane how sad I was, in looking back I can see that I was having a meltdown obviously but sometimes human beings melt down, where is the shame in that? I'm not a headcase, in general, but in that moment I was. I needed help. I needed a little bit of comfort. I needed a committed friend to hold me and say, "Hey, shhhh, it's going to be okay." I fear my own humanness is basically what this is all about. And for good reason, at times, I might add. I have been rejected. I have been brushed off, put aside, rejected - for the very qualities that I am treasured for by others. This is hurtful. Like I said, we do not operate in a vacuum. Or, NORMAL people don't anyway. Those who walk around always knowing that they "deserve" things, they "deserve" the best, their self-esteem is unshakably high about what they "deserve" are, in general, socially inept d-bags. A little self-doubt is sometimes not just good for relationships, but also accurate. It is the ability to look at oneself accurately, and that is the most attractive quality of all. We've all had the experience of talking to someone who truly believes that he or she is the funniest person on the planet. And they are not. (Like Mitchell says about those people, "Leave the comedy to the professionals, mkay?") Or those who feel that reciting South Park episodes mean that they themselves are HILARIOUS. I am not exempting myself from these foibles, we all have them, we do not always know who we are, we under- or over-estimate our abilities, etc., but when it becomes endemic to a personality, when the entire artifice of a personality is constructed to hide the truth about the person from himself ... that's when things get scary. Again, this is just an instinct with me. Maybe it's like being a human metal detector, only I can sense sociopaths and d-bags. Not sure. It's a sensitivity to lying. Not lying like, "I'm 35" when you actually are 62. Those are lies we all can understand. But lying like, "I am THIS kind of person - can we all just agree that I am THIS kind of person?" when it is so obvious that you are NOT that kind of person, not in the slightest. To me, that kind of lying (while understandable - we all want to be loved and successful and perceived to be terrific well-liked people) is the toxic kind. Perhaps because I feel like I could "go there" myself.

So of course I would love to be "the kind of person" who doesn't ache to be hugged from time to time, and coddled, and told "everything is going to be okay". I would also love, by the way, to be the kind of person who doesn't feel that those very human needs are neurotic and must be hidden from others. That is really what I would love and that was the battle going on with me in my quarantine.

Finally, though, I crossed some rubicon (I was sobbing openly by this point, mortifying!), and decided, "this is retarded. I need to go be with Michael right fucking now." And I did. My major breakthrough was not "getting myself together" before I went downstairs. This may seem pathetic to some people - those who have a tendency to call displays of emotion of any kind "whining" - but I live in a different world, thankfully, where emotion has its place. This also may seem like a version of "arrested development" to others, who could find it confusing that I was so embarrassed by my own emotions. It's a valid point. I am not incredibly mature. I have a lot of neurotic notions about things, and also, I operate from scarcity. It does something to you. Makes you a bit ka-ka. Cray-cray. My desire now is to be KIND to that part of myself, as opposed to brutal. To give her some goddamn room to BREATHE.

Like my cousin Mike said to me recently, "Stop calling yourself crazy. You are not crazy. You love deeply, you care deeply, that is not crazy."

It is, on the contrary, the best part of myself. To abandon that part of myself, to demonize it, to believe in my heart the judgment of the world that I am "too much" would be a tragedy.

I staggered down the stairs, in my T-shirt and boxer shorts, glasses on, tears streaming down my face. I was a spectre from the black lagoon of grief upstairs, infiltrating Michael's quiet space downstairs. He lay on the couch, with a light on, and he was deeply engrossed in the Peter Manso biography of Brando. He heard me coming, glanced up, saw me, and in an instant, the book was down, he was off the couch, and taking me in my arms. Baffled, yes - because we were not in the same place. We had been in the same place for our relationship - but on that last night, we actually DID separate. Again, my instinct about this was not wrong. He was ready to move on, to go back to 'real life' - I was not. But instead of judging me for holding onto it, instead of judging me for feeling the loss, he had nothing but sympathy and love for me. I have not had much kindness in those moments. I have from friends, but not from the man in question. He has already moved on. Faucet on, faucet now off. He is not the one I can go to anymore, and yeah, there's something right about that, that is why one has a posse, but it is still hard. This moment with Michael stands alone in my experience, and he - a 20 year old kid - was up to the task. He brought me over to the couch, and held me as I cried, and he was saying things to me like, "What is it? What is it?? Can you talk about it?" I couldn't. Then he said, "You don't want to go home, do you?"

I had already been crying but at his words, I became like this:


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Instead of withdrawing, or judging, or all of the other things I have experienced in such moments (and again, I'm not a neurotic headcase, but when I get sad, I go there, man) - Michael coddled me and upped the tenderness. When I burst into a higher level of sobbing, he almost started laughing - the way you do when a little kid freaks the fuck OUT because he dropped his popsicle on the ground - you recognize the reality of the intense GRIEF being expressed, but on some level, you know: Okay, okay, this is kind of funny, because she is flipping OUT. The laughter was warm and soft in my ears, as he held me tighter, sympathetic but also somehow distant, and he said, "I know ... I know you don't want to go home ..." He did not give me platitudes, like: "I want to stay here, too" (because I knew and he knew that that was not true). He did not reassure me inappropriately, ie: "We'll still be together when we get back to Chicago", because we both knew we probably wouldn't. He just heard me, did not belittle me, held me tight, and said, "I know. I know you don't want to go home. It's okay, Sheila. You're going to be okay."

I was pretty much at the "boo-hoo" stage of my crying jag. I think I was actually making actual "boo hoo" noises. Michael laughed to himself (but kindly, always kindly), and lay me back on the couch with him - the two of us struggling to fit there together. Half of my body was falling off into midair, but he held onto me, putting my head on his chest, and let me boo-hoo about my own life - much of which did not have to do with him - deep into the night. Half the time I was crying about another man! Good Lord! Michael knew about the "baby boomer" (as a matter of fact, he was the one who christened him "the baby boomer", and his voice always dripped with the contempt of the Gen X-er when he said it. Remember: I'm Gen X too. I mean, look at our outfits. We were poster children and we didn't even know it.) - and we didn't talk much about it, I didn't go around talking to my new boyfriend about my old love - we were too taken up with getting Ben & Jerry's and having ridiculous fights about how I crossed the street and how crazy that made him - and doing our show, and having a blast. We were in the present.

That "boo-hoo" moment on the couch was also me being in the present. It was not me holding onto the past, not really. It was me moving into another present. It was a letting go. It is hard for me to let go. I wanted to stay in Ithaca forever.

Words cannot express the damage that has been done to me when I have experienced contempt or coldness during such times. It makes you shrivel back into yourself, recoil completely. It is an over-correction, which I have talked about before. You feel horror at what you have revealed, you feel horror that it is now being judged and you are seen as somehow lacking, or weak, or codependent - you are "that girl" that everyone rolls their eyes at - and so the doors clamp shut, you over-correct in your next relationship, and it is sometimes years before all that shit is untangled. The damage done by the over-correction is often way worse than the original hurt.

But I was not damaged in that moment with Michael. I went to him in my sadness, and he comforted me. Not just like a friend should, but like a man should. He is a real man. He was an underage kid at that point, but he knew how to be a man. We both had our times of "checking out" during our relationship - he had some insane freakouts which are amusing to me in retrospect, although they were tremendously serious at the time. I made the enormous error of getting into a huge conversation with another cast member, a guy, about Henry Miller - and Michael, who loves Henry Miller, freaked OUT on me later. He could not BELIEVE that I would share with ANOTHER PERSON my thoughts on Henry Miller without even ACKNOWLEDGING that MICHAEL LOVED HIM TOO. Michael was screaming at me on the sidewalk at 2 in the morning. "You KNOW I love Henry Miller - you didn't even fucking LOOK at me when you were talking to Pat about him - it's like you just wiped me out - like I don't even count!" I blustered around, trying to protest my innocence - "I didn't realize - Henry Miller just came up - I didn't think - " and Michael was having none of it - and we both just spiralled down into this huge fight and I finally felt so attacked that I shouted back, "FINE. FINE. I wanted to talk to HIM about it, not YOU - is that what you want to hear? What - you OWN Henry Miller? Do you OWN HENRY MILLER, MICHAEL?" I am laughing out loud as I type this. Finally, I got it. I understood what was happening. Michael felt rejected, abandoned in that moment, and it pissed him off. He just wanted to be included. Oh. Okay. And I hadn't included him. Whoops. Once I "got it", I was able to apologize - and appropriately. I totally knew where he was coming from, and it was okay that he flipped out on me. Of course he did.

In a funny way, him flipping out like that made me feel safe. I hated it when he flipped out, it made us both insane, but at the same time - it showed me: this guy gives a shit. Try to be sensitive to that, Sheila. You are not alone in this.

That's what I mean when I say Michael was "hot", all the time. It was high-maintenance, I had never been used to a man who could just openly admit he was jealous - I found it thrilling, but that was kind of unfair because jealousy was a torture to Michael. Anyway, my point is: we had both had times when we "checked out", and freaked out. That last night was my time.

I was suffering. For all kinds of reasons. Some had to do with him, others not. There was much going on with me that I had not shared. He knew that.

But when I remember him glancing up to see me approaching down the stairs, when I remember him putting the book down immediatley and standing up in one fell swoop, when I remember him dragging me into his arms and holding me, until I fell asleep, what I am grateful for is his kindness.

Kindness like that is not a small thing.

Perhaps the scarcity from which I operate is a sort of blessing, although I am not ready yet to say "thank you" for it. But it does help clarify things. Everything is so stripped away, so scarce, that needs and wants and desires become acutely apparent. And the best part of all (although again, it is a mixed blessing) is that one does not forget.

Operating from scarcity gives you a long long memory. You need it. That drop of water you received from the oasis 300 miles away has to last.

And it does.

It also helps to be able to write about it.

Memory, in and of itself, is a sort of oasis. A place where abundance can be stored, measured out, given back, doled out.

There are many reasons why Michael and I are still such good friends. It remains "hot", not as in romantic - but like all my friendships - it is still engaged, still in process, still at work. We are not done.

I fell asleep that night with my head on his chest. At some point during the night, he took my glasses off for me. He told me later that he read all night, holding the book up in the air, with me sleeping on his chest.

The next day, we all woke up and piled into our caravan of cars and drove back to Chicago.

All of my fears about returning were soon realized, and I was catapulted into a ruthless wilderness which eventually ended with me picking up and moving to New York. That was the end result. I no longer could bear it, Chicago itself became too much for me, and I had to leave. It was about a year later that I made the move, but the bad-ness really began for me when I got back to Chi-town.

But as the years have passed, my memory of Michael's kindness to me that night have remained, and, to be honest, it's a small moment. Right? Other people who may have had tons of experience with dating and many many boyfriends and even husbands may not hold onto such moments, or even remember them at all. Things become diluted, it is easy to forget the poignancy of those moments of connection. But not when you have so little. When you have so little, things remain clear. Awfully so, at times, I wish for less clarity, a little softness and forgetfulness, but that seems to be a hopeless wish. At least for someone such as myself.

I was never in love with Michael, and he never broke my heart. Our bond remains unclassifiable and outside of normal explanations and it was operating at full level that night I had Ebola. We knew each other, what, 7 weeks at that point? But the entelechy of it was already there. It was there from the beginning, and in my experience that is so rare as to be almost unheard of.

That memory matters to me. I call upon it. It reminds me of softness, of gentleness, of being understood and cared for when you are weak and worn down, of not just the possibility of kindness, but its actuality.

I think of him reading his book over my sleeping head. I think of him gently removing my glasses so that I wouldn't wake up. I wasn't "there" in those moments, I was asleep, but it makes me think of my favorite passage from LM Montgomery's Emily's Quest:

And even though he knew it not, surely such love would hover around him all his life like an invisible benediction, not understood but dimly felt, guarding him from ill and keeping from him all things of harm and evil.

When I think of that night, that's what comes to mind.


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June 19, 2009

Dear Ann Marie:

It was great running into you on the street corner this afternoon.

I am not sure why you dyed your hair blue, I decided not to ask.

Funny thing, a camera caught our interaction. Check it out.

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June 18, 2009

full of grace ....

It has always seemed wrong to me to buy your own rosary. Rosaries should be passed down. From grandmothers to mothers to daughters. I have wanted to buy one over the last year, felt the need, and have even gone shopping a couple of times, but have hesitated on putting money down because of this strange feeling inside that no ... no ... a rosary should not be bought. It needs to be given.

The rain pours down today, and I am sick as a dog. On the mend, but flu-ridden and heartsick. Periodically out of my mind. I spent the day recovering, lying in bed, and then there was a two-hour phone conversation with my dear friend Jen, about something she is going through. Well, we spent one hour on HER life, and then one hour on mine. It was difficult, with my raw flu-sore throat, to talk that much, but I needed it. It keeps me connected and it keeps me talking.

I went to take down my recyclables into the basement and saw a package lying on the floor underneath my mailbox. I glanced closely at it and saw it was for me. It was a handwritten label, which was strange, because it looked like the monthly box of Moodstar Essential Oils I get (please do not judge, although I realize that might be difficult), but my monthly stash comes with a typewritten label.

Now the interesting thing was that the handwriting on the box today was as familiar to me as my own, although I have not seen said handwriting in, what, almost 30 years? She is a friend from my past, my high school friend, and naturally I grew up in the days before texting and email, so I am very familiar with everybody's handwriting from my past. At a certain point in my life, I stopped knowing what my friends' handwriting looks like, a very interesting phenomenon, I think. Like, Allison. Allison is one of my best friends on the planet but I could not pick her handwriting out of a lineup because I met her after I had email. But my childhood friends, my family, my Chicago boyfriends ... these people have handwriting I know in my DNA.

The handwriting on this box was an echo from my distant past. One of my dearest friends in high school. We are now Facebook friends, and we are not in touch as we used to be, but my memory of her is fond and dear. I was not even aware that she had my current address.

I've been hearing from a lot of random people these last four or five months, of course - so, curious, I took the box back into my apartment and opened it up.

There was a card from her, and a brief note - again, in that handwriting that I know so well, the rounded neat edges, the kind of squat openings in the letters - the writing that says to me, in no uncertain terms, HER. It is a fingerprint. We would write notes in class to each other. We would pass notes in the hallway. I have some of them still. Handwriting changes, sure, but not all that much. There SHE was. Again.

Her note was sweet and short, and she said she had been looking for something that had "Mother Mary" on it to send to me ... which immediately brought up emotion in my throat - I've never written about Mary, and I probably never will. Those feelings are so mine and should never be shared. But I felt the emotion start, and after I finished reading her note, I reached into the box, through the bubble wrap, and pulled out a small wrapped box, invisible in the layers of bubble wrap. I unwrapped it, and saw a clear-plastic box, with a rosary in it. A beautiful rosary.

I am beyond words. Beyond words. One word.

hailMaryfullofgracetheLordiswiththee
blessedartthouamongwomenandblessedisthefruitofthywombJesus
holyMarymotherofGodprayforussinners
nowandatthehourofourdeathamen


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May 29, 2009

A depraved mind reveals itself casually

Michele (looking at photo): "It looks like --"

Me (interrupting, nodding, thinking I will be agreeing with her): "Everyone is about to be murdered."

Pause.

Michele: "Actually, no, I was going to say a nice suburban picnic."

Me: "Oh. Oops."


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May 26, 2009

"We enrolled ourselves in college and we got our Ph.Ds - we found another cure for another rare disease!"

Lyrics here.

Performed at Lounge Ax. Ah, Lounge Ax!! I miss that place. It can be seen, however, in the scene in High Fidelity when they all go to the club to see Lisa Bonet perform. That's Lounge Ax. I like to watch that scene, from time to time, to visit my own past ... in a place that no longer exists - but there it is: captured on screen!

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Michael and me

I love this picture of us.

Although we do have that vaguely frightening and immediately-recognizable mixture of expressions on our faces:

1. We dig each other
2. We just rolled out of bed
3. We are about to go on a murderous killing spree


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Speaking of sloozy butts

Sit down, Sheila.

You're wasted. You're also underage. You're a virgin. Stop pretending you're a sloozy butt. Also: what on earth are you wearing?

Mitchell said, in regards to this picture, (and he's the one I am basically assaulting in the photo), "You look like Jessica Savitch, inappropriately trashed at some big-wig event."

Mitchell has a way of expressing the truth.

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Sloozy butts

This is from a New Year's Eve party many years ago. I'm 23 and in the midst of a nervous breakdown. I'm standing with a dear friend, Liz (still a dear friend), and we are chatting up a storm. I am manic. I haven't slept in about four days. But mania was preferable to the OTHER at that point.

Liz's boyfriend at the time saw this picture and said, "You two look like a couple of cheaply perfumed sloozy butts."

Of course he MEANT to say "boozy sluts" - but he messed up and said "sloozy butts", which has now passed into legend in my group of friends. We still say it all the time.

"I feel like a sloozy butt right now."
"Wow, look at those two sloozy butts."

Etc. Ad nauseum.

Exeunt.


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May 8, 2009

I miss Easter Island

Oh Mitchell. Please come home soon.

Once, recently, we were talking about our friendship. And how cosmic it all looks if you take a second to step back and try to perceive it as a whole.

I said, "It's kind of mysterious and huge, isn't it?"

Mitchell replied, casually, from the other room, "Yes. We have the Easter Island of relationships."

Photo montage of the Easter Island of relationships below.

Too much has happened since I last saw you. Complete upheaval. I feel you with me, but it's been way too long.

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Beth and Meredith:

Here is my guiding image for you all this week.


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Only don't drive off a cliff together, mkay? Or at least call me before you do!

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May 6, 2009

A note from the mysterious "Nancy D"

Got home yesterday. Got the mail. Started going through it.

There was one small envelope, and it was addressed to me in familiar handwriting. It's funny: I have friends that I have met in the last 10 years - and I would not know their handwriting by sight, due to the lack of snail mail. But the friends from before that? I know it all. Kate. I would know her handwriting in a dark alley. Pat. His handwriting is as known to me as the freckles on my face.

So there was an envelope with my friend Betsy's handwriting on it. Obviously.

Yet. The name in the return address on the envelope was "Nancy D." What the hell?

There are multiple levels of confusion here (possible). The first one is that my friend Beth's maiden name starts with "D", and her mother's name is Nancy. So I thought: "Beth's mother wrote to me?" Considering the last couple of months, it wouldn't be out of the question. I have been hearing from a lot of people. But ... second level of confusion ... the return address was in Virginia. Why would Beth's mother, who lives in Rhode Island, be writing to me from Virginia? Yes. Betsy lives in Virginia, but ... whatever ... sometimes I'm not so bright ... and i got all confused.

Maybe it's NOT Betsy's handwriting. Maybe it just LOOKS like her writing.

My confusion deepened when I opened the envelope. There was no letter. Just a small blue piece of paper and on it was written:

It's a bit gratuitous to quote passages from Shakespeare on a daily basis.
-- The Clue of the Dancing Puppet

What. The. Hell.

Now here is where I went a little bit insane for about 3.2 seconds. It had been a long day and I was very depleted at that point. It was 8 p.m. and I hadn't eaten in 5 hours. So factor that in.

Suddenly, I knew it WASN'T Betsy at all ... it was some person who reads my blog, who hates me (I know you're out there!) - and they somehow found out my address and sent me that bitchy statement about Shakespeare ... like: stop quoting Shakespeare, you snob ... and for 3.2 seconds I got very afraid. How did they get my address? What the hell? Do I quote Shakespeare all that much? Oh. Yeah. I guess I do. Someone is so angry about it that they would take the time to write up a note like this and send it to me? Should I call the police?

But then there was the strange "clue" of "The Clue of the Dancing Puppet" which, after the 3.2 second freakout, I promptly Googled.

(Ahem.)

And then the return address became clear. Nancy D. Of course.

Betsy lives in Virginia, found a quote in an old Nancy Drew book, thought of me, put it on a little blue card, and popped it in the mail - putting "Nancy D" as the sender in the return address slot ... and suddenly, as all of that finally became clear (it took long enough), I started laughing hysterically, all alone in my apartment.

After my 3.2 seconds of freakout where the small blue card suddenly seemed unbeLIEVably hostile, sent to me by an unknown "Nancy D" who, for whatever reason, had a problem with me quoting Shakespeare ... it became the best moment of the day.

Put it up on the bulletin board.

I have good good friends. I am very lucky.

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April 30, 2009

Inappropriate hilarity that could not be stopped.

In college, I was in a production of Lanford Wilson's The Rimers of Eldritch (excerpt here). It is a grim bleak play about a bunch of hopeless people.

I was in it with Mitchell, Brooke, Nancy, other dear friends. I'm still very proud of that show, and what we were able to create. Great experience.

However.

We had a photo call after one of the productions. All of the photos I have of that show are from that night. And Brooke and I, who played best friends (teenage girls), were possessed by a DEMON of laughter, of the laughing-in-church kind and we could not stop. We would get it together for one particular shot, and the second the camera clicked, we would EXPLODE in laughter again. We got in trouble, for God's sake! We got yelled at! "Girls, we have a lot to get through - can you keep it together?"

We could NOT. It ended up not even being funny. It was more like agony. We would determinedly not look at each other, but we could FEEL one another peripherally ... I could see Brooke's shoulders shaking, and I would LOSE it which would set her off. The bad thing about all of this (or, one of the bad things) is that it was one of those shows where everyone was onstage at the same time. So even if the focus wasn't on us, we were in the background, so not only were we ruining our own shots, we were ruining other people's (which was much much worse). We laughed, I am not kidding, for four hours straight. We cried rivers of tears. We had to have our makeup redone. We were unbelievably unprofessional.

The joke began in this way: The play, as I mentioned, is grim and dark. Nobody in the play is happy. It is a terrible story. So there's that. It's not like we could somehow turn our laughter into something that would work for the photos. We were totally TRAPPED. We played Patsy and Lena, two bored high school girls in the 1950s in a little dust-bowl Bible Belt town. Brooke played Patsy, a restless "fast" girl, a bit of a slut in those days, she put out ... and she had big dreams for herself. She was gonna get OUT of that town. (Keep dreamin', sister.) I played her kind of dumpy sidekick, Lena, who was a much more conventional person. She had a boyfriend, and that was important to her ... she wants to get married and have kids, settle down in the town ... but she also has deep THOUGHTS about things and wants to SHARE it with her boyfriend, who, frankly, couldn't care less, and basically tries to date-rape her every time they go out. Lena, of course, is a virgin (unlike Patsy), and wants to be one on her wedding night (typecasting. Well. At the time). Her dreams for herself are so different from the reality. There are awful wrestling-match scenes between the two of them, where she would be trying to talk about the universe or God and he's putting his hand down her blouse. But this is the guy for her. Lena is not the type to flirt around, or find someone more suitable. She'll marry him. And in a year or two she will be as grim and judgmental as all the other women in the town.

Meanwhile, Patsy is falling in love ("love") with an aimless trucker who comes through town, who seems glamorous, like he could take her somewhere, take her out of the town ... but she's going to sleep with him, get pregnant, and in the process trap him and herself.


Okay, so there's the setup. BLEAK.

Brooke and I had been friends for a year or so when we did Rimers, but Rimers solidified our bond. To this day, if we find ourselves at a bar picking out songs on the jukebox, Brooke will glance at me and say, "We are totally Patsy and Lena right now."

So the joke during photo call, which began innocently but then ballooned into a laughing fit that annoyed pretty much EVERYONE was that during the scenes when we weren't in focus, but were in the background, we started joking that the two of us would be boozing it up like two blowsy whores - so the characters in focus would be doing their thing, but in the background would be a blurry image of the two of us, teenage bobbysoxers, clinking glasses, or rubbing our breasts lasciviously at the camera or bending over to take it up the ass as we winked grotesquely at the camera - all SO not in the world of Rimers ... and finally, we couldn't stop. We found it so hilarious that we were totally overtaken. We would stand in the background of scenes, arms clenched across our stomachs, trying to hold it in while the photos of the other actors were taken. Tears streamed down our faces. We were reprimanded repeatedly. We begged for mercy. "I'm so sorry - we can't stop!!"

So now. I have those Rimers photos. I am amazed at how much we were able to keep it together. Each photo represents about 4 or 5 tries from the photographer to get us in between wild guffaws. But she ended up getting the shots she needed.

At the end of the night, the costume designer wanted stills of each character in their costumes, so there was one photo taken of me, in my dress, and then Brooke and I had to stand together and get our picture taken. These last photos were not about acting, it was only about the dresses we were wearing, so we were able to let it out a little bit. We weren't playing a scene. In the first one, I am obviously blurry, I am moving on by, completely undone by the hilarity I am trapped in. In the second one, you can see that we are both a bit blurry, and I look, frankly, insane. A demon has overtaken me and it has worn me OUT.

I love these pictures. The birth of a lifelong friendship.


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April 26, 2009

One of the great things about being in the theatre

... is that you get to see your best friends dressed up like this on a regular basis.

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April 20, 2009

The sweetness of life

Please do not look at this photo before reading the text.

Years ago, I was out to dinner in New York with some friends - Kate, Jon (her boyfriend at the time) and somebody else I am not remembering. It was a summer night, we were at a steak house, the wine flowed, and we were having a ball. The conversation flowed across the table, fast and furious.

Kate and I were talking about something at one point, and focused on each other. Jon started talking, too, and at first I thought he was talking to the other person at the table, so I didn't listen. But gradually, through my own talking, I began to hear that he was talking in a high voice, kind of a snooty upper-class voice, and he had been going on and on for some time, and what he was saying went something like this:

"I just feel that people focus too much on 'sweetness' these days ... that all they care about is sweetness, sweetness, sweetness ... I do not understand the obsession with sweetness ... It is as though people only care about 'sweetness' ... There is nothing else that matters to them ... it is all just about SWEETNESS ..."

What the HELL are you babbling about, Jon? And what is your sudden ISSUE with sweetness? Also, what the hell is going on with your VOICE?

It finally got our attention (as it was meant to all along), and we turned to him, and saw him sitting there, as he had been all along, like this.

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Halloween

Strange photos. This was in the middle of Mitchell and me becoming such good friends that we actually annoyed the rest of the theatre department. They were all like, "God, whatever, with you two skipping down the hallway." We could not believe our luck: that we had discovered one another! We were absolutely inseparable. We also felt like, "Why is everyone annoyed that we are friends?" Too funny. It was all so dramatic.

Speaking of dramatic, here we are at a Halloween party (we're obviously not dressed up, for once) - and we all seem to be crammed into the corner of the kitchen - and look at the random dude with the checkered face - and somehow, these photos make it seem like something very dramatic and cinematic and possibly DISTURBING is going down.

Meanwhile, we're just goofing around. But the photos look like something else is happening.

Mitchell and I don't care about our surroundings, and those people behind us are actually our friends, but we are all about each other.


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April 12, 2009

"Kwik Stop" on iTunes; (Michael Gilio: director, writer, actor)

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Kwik Stop, written and directed by (as well as starring) Michael Gilio is now available for renting (or purchase) on iTunes. I meant to write a thing about this when it happened in December, but that was when everything started going to shit, and I couldn't.

I included Kwik Stop in my Under-rated Movies thing I used to do. Here is my review. I recommend the movie with no hesitation. Follow all the links in that review, to see the words of the bigwigs who championed this small film - Roger Ebert, Charles Taylor. Great stuff.

In recent months, things have sort of heated up for Michael, intensifying and accelerating, due to his inclusion on the famous "black list" of 10 Best Unproduced Scripts in Hollywood (and his script won't be "unproduced" for long)!

Anyone who is a regular reader knows who Michael is to me.

I haven't been writing personal essays lately. All of that has been going into my offline work, and my book. But ... I'm in the mood today.

Michael is a man who has a permanent place of affection in my heart. Indelible ink. I will never get rid of him, and I am thankful. He is a true gentleman, honest as the day is long, he's also a pain in the ass, a brat, and a kick-ass disco dancer. Obviously.

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We met when we were both in a play in Ithaca - an insane out-of-town experience which we still laugh about to this day (I also shared what I think of as "my best day" with him. Perfection). Early on, within a couple of days of dating, we discovered that we share a passion for the films of John Cassavetes. We felt like we were members of a sacred and bizarre little sect that nobody else understood. We talked about Cassavetes and his muse, Gena Rowlands, for hours. We still do such things, finding things in common, shared obsessions, and plumbing the depths of them (uhm, Mickey Rourke?) We didn't date for long, only a couple of months, but that was it. We are friends for life.

It's kind of funny (and interesting) when you get to a place with an ex-boyfriend where you have no boundaries (Examples abound). It's rare. (I think my friend Cara knows exactly what I am talking about). I wouldn't want it with all of my ex-boyfriends, because it can be kind of annoying, but for whatever reason, Michael and I just have no bullshit. It is a true connection. You know, he came to New York and crashed on my floor and we talked or didn't talk for hours on end. The connection existed when we dated, and it exists now still. In a different form, but no less welcome and awesome.

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Here is an example of a conversation we had recently. This is how it went:

Me: I'm old-fashioned. I need him to make the first move.
Michael: It's not old-fashioned. It's a test of character. And don't sleep with him on the first date, but then you already know that.
Me: Iron-clad rule. As you may remember.
Michael: Good.

We lost touch for a couple of years after I moved away from Chicago. I was in grad school, he was busy ... we lived in different cities ... there was no Facebook ... if you wanted to get in touch with someone you had to pick up the damn phone. When September 11th happened, he called Mitchell to get my new phone number, and left me multiple messages on that first day of trauma ... which, of course I did not get. When I finally picked up all of my messages when my phone worked again, and I heard the 70+ messages I received on that one day (I'm not kidding ... it was a voice mail system I paid for, so there was unlimited space) ... I felt like my heart would burst. And there was Michael's voice, a couple of different calls over that day and the next. "I have no idea why you would be down in the financial center, because you're an actor ... but ... just call me ... okay? I'm sure you're fine, but just call me." Major phone problems for a couple of days, I could not get through to anyone, but he kept trying until I was able to call him back a couple days later. Friends for life, man.

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One of the main things I recall, is my last night in Chicago, before taking off to New York to start my new life here. It was a soft quiet end-of-summer night. I lived a couple blocks from Wrigley Field with Mitchell. A beautiful tree-lined peaceful street.

My last night before I left, before I ripped up my Chicago roots and moved back east, was full, and sad, and rich. I went out to dinner with my core group of friends. Michael had been invited but he couldn't show. He had been vague in his refusal: "Maybe I'll be able to make it ... I might be done in time ..." Uhm, Pisces? I knew that this probably meant I wouldn't see him before I left. But there was too much else to be glad about, to be thankful for, to have regrets. I had had a nice goodbye with M., my main flame in Chicago. I had just come off a terrible illness, with a fever of 103, and I had spent a couple of days recuperating at M.'s apartment, and we watched TV and hung out, and ordered in food, and by the end of that time, I certainly felt better, but I also knew that I was ready to leave M. as well. It was good. Everything happened in the right way. No loose ends.

On my last night, we all sat around outside at a restaurant, and had pizza, and beer, and talked. Everyone at the table told their favorite Sheila story from Chicago. (And there were many.) We laughed until we cried. Sometimes we just cried. A beautiful acknowledgment, and a perfect way to close. Close it up. It was achingly difficult for me to leave Chicago, but I had to. Saying goodbye to my community of friends was painful. But we did it the right way. We didn't rush it, or pretend it wasn't happening, or try to smooth over the moment with trite, "Oh, we'll all still be friends". Of COURSE we'll all still be friends, but it cannot be denied that the dynamic will change.

Our night ended, and we all parted ways. Mitchell and I came home. Ann Marie was with us, too. It was so quiet. There was a melancholy in the darkness, a piercing bittersweetness ... but there was also joy. The kind of joy that is unbearable. We sat on the front porch, drinking grape ginger ale ... why do I remember that? I don't know. I never drink grape ginger ale but for some reason that night I was ... and every time I see a big ol' bottle of it at Pathmark I think of my last night in Chicago.

Ann and I sat on the front steps in the dark. We were quiet. We were going to see each other early early the next morning, since she was helping me pick up my rent-a-car at, oh, 5 oclock in the morning. There was just the darkness, and the quiet. I wanted to soak everything in, imprint every single physical sensation onto my brain. Forever. My wind chimes. God, those wind chimes. The thick grass of the front yard. The plaintive Meows of my insistent codependent cat Samuel. He could not BELIEVE that I was sitting outside, RIGHT IN HIS PLAIN VIEW THROUGH THE WINDOW ... and he couldn't come out and join.

And you know what? I think I did a good job with "soaking everything in", because I remember every sensory detail. I can close my eyes and conjure up that street, that night, the feel of the soft night air on my skin, the taste of the grape ginger ale ...

The street was empty, but at some point, I became aware of a lone figure approaching. He was in shadow, dark, but I knew ... I knew it was Michael. He had come to see me off. At midnight.

I was barefoot, I jumped up and ran down to meet him, my heart in my throat, my soul on the OUTSIDE of me ... We hugged and hugged and hugged, and Ann Marie quietly slipped away to leave us alone.

Michael and I had stopped dating about a year prior to this point, but that was no matter. There was a powerful thing to say good-bye to here. We both knew it. I was so glad he showed. So glad. It just made everything perfect, complete, a closed circle. No ragged edges for my departure. And we sat on my front porch, and we drank grape ginger ale, and we talked about ... I can't even really remember. Not too many words were said, actually. What was said was brief and tender and poignant. We kissed for what felt like an eternity. Lost in each other. I felt looked after, cared for, like ... things were okay. It was okay I was leaving. It was hard, but it was okay.

And seeing him strolling towards me in the darkness, showing up after the crowd had dispersed ... showing up for his own private good-bye ... It was good and right. Maybe Michael knew that a group event, a group dinner, wouldn't have been appropriate for the two of us. We could never have said what we needed to say in that environment, we could never have completed our own little special circle.

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No matter how long it has been ... how many years has gone by ... when I hear from him, I get that same sensation of when I caught a glimpse of his shadowed figure coming towards me on that last night, and I leapt up and ran to him in my bare feet. Unafraid to show him my joy, unafraid to let him know how happy it made me that he had come ... I didn't have to hide my intensity with him, I never did. I still don't. I had a crazy freakout recently about something that had happened on Facebook, I made it mean something that it wasn't (and I will be honest: I was not in my right mind at the time - this was in January) - and with anyone else I might have suffered in silence, tailspinning into insecurity. But with him, I blasted him a CUH-RAZY email saying, "Why did you do what you just did on Facebook? It hurt my feelings, yo - please don't do that to me - talk to me - this is insane - I'm really hurt!" Poor Michael. But - unlike most of the ex-boyfriends I have known, instead of belittling me, or ignoring me, or rolling his eyes, he said, "Woah! Slow down!" It had been a complete misunderstanding, and he let me know, in no uncertain terms, that he would never do what I had thought he did (and of course, if I had been thinking straight, I would have known that ... but I couldn't think straight then. Raw nerve) - and he said that I was obviously sensitive right now because of obvious reasons, but I needed to relax, and everything would be okay.

There is a cuh-razy about me. I spin off. I get manic. And being able to BE that (and I do work to not be like that all the time, but sometimes I can't help it), and not be punished or cut loose - but also to be talked off the ledge by a calm and invested friend ... I was so glad I had said something. Even though it just revealed my own craziness to me (and to him) ... It was a relief to be told, "No. You just made that up. You're fine. We're good. Relax, dear."

To say I "need" that kind of energy is to understate what the word "need" means.

It's also reciprocated. He emailed me recently - February - just a regular touching-base "How you doing" email, and I didn't respond. Things were going on with me, real-life stuff, book stuff, other stuff, and I became a bad and negligent correspondent. Michael emailed me again, and I thought, frenzied, "Oh yeah ... gotta email him back ... make a note of it ..." And then forgot to email him back. Finally, he sent me an email to my regular email as well as to my Facebook page, saying, blatantly, "Why are you ignoring me??? What do I have to do to get you to respond?" Oops. Emailed him back immediately. "Sorry, sorry, sorry!"

No standing on ceremony. No politeness. Friends.


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This has felt good to write.

So, to re-cap:

Kwik Stop: AVAILABLE ON ITUNES. Go rent or purchase it now. And again: my review here.


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Posted by sheila Permalink

April 9, 2009

Happy birthday, Jackie!

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In honor of Jackie's birthday - which is today. We have been dear friends since college.

Random quotes and fragments from our long long friendship:

-- "Where is the delivery boy with that fabric morgue??"

-- After college, we both got jobs working on an assembly line at a local factory. One of my fellow assembly-line workers had gone to high school with me, and she gave me this look when I first walked onto the factory floor and said, "What the hell are you doing here? Didn't you go to college??" Jackie would come pick me up at 5 o'clock in the morning, so we would be able to take our places "on the line" at 6 a.m. It was very bleak. Afterwards, we go out and have some beers at a local tavern. We referred to ourselves as "Paula and Lynette" (you know, from Officer and a Gentleman). A strange in-between time for us - aimless, not worried about having to make plans yet. And oh, the stories of that factory!!

-- "I had to wear 40 fuckin' corsets on that shoot. 40 fuckin' corsets."

-- "I was married to that Nazi bastid for 30 years and I got NOTHIN'."

-- Tequila shots and Caroline

-- The infamous M., my crazy old flame, calls my house - Jackie picks up. What I love about this exchange, is that they just both went with the game. Ba-dum-ching.
Jackie: "Hello. Tony's Pizza Palace."
M.: "I'd like a Sheila to go."
Jackie: "And what would you like on that?"
M.: "Nothing."

-- "Beneath the bad haircut and the 2 dollar jeans beats a heart of gold." (Jackie, defending one of her old boyfriends to her skeptical friends)

-- "Are those .... your tents? Tell 'em Mrs. Baaaaarney sent ya...... They'll know." (I seriously need to write up the story of Mrs. Barney one day. It is humor on an almost apocalyptic level. We were on an island in the St. Lawrence Seaway and we were actually told, via messenger the next day, from people on ANOTHER island, if we could please keep it down in the future. That was how loud we all were laughing.)

-- We did a production of My Cup Ranneth Over (excerpt from play here) - one of my favorite college productions I ever did. And, like, 40 people saw it. Major great memories working with Jackie.

-- At an open mike with her in Chicago. We sang as a duo. A fuse blew - and the entire bar was plunged into darkness. We were there with M., my guy - my grumpy curmudgeonly guy. There were all these musicians there, with guitars that needed to be plugged in, the microphones didn't work - no electricity - so the open mike came to a stop - Mayhem ensued. M. yelled thru the dark at the organizer, "Hey, there's an a capella group over here!!!" Being helpful. I had a MAJOR heart-crack. So Jackie and I made our way to the stage - PITCH BLACK - the place was packed - people were still drinking - the cash register happened to be an old-fashionied manual one - so you could hear the pounding of the keys - and Jackie and I sang our entire repertoire, a capella, until the lights came back on. One of the most magical nights of my entire time in Chicago. You could have heard a pin drop in that place while we were singing.

-- We dressed up in terrible bridesmaid dresses in college for a Halloween party and went as "The Sweeney Sisters".

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-- Our Sunday night dates when I first moved to Chicago: We would walk down the street to My Pie - and we would have a mug of beer each, and share a pizza. My favorite pizza joint in Chicago. Then we would walk back to her place and pull the TV out of the closet (she kept it in there for the majority of the time) - to watch Life Goes On - a show we were completely addicted to.

-- "He ripped my brown wool leg-wraps."

-- Oh. The carnage we caused.

-- All the men we dated. The HOURS of conversation about them. Meeting up for coffee, or drinks .. to talk about this or that man. Supporting each other. Laughing. Crying. Whatever. Just there for each other. I was there on the day she kind of "discovered" that she loved Stuart, the man who is now her husband. A magical freezing day. They weren't even dating yet ... but something shifted that day. Something shifted. She and Stuart are very happy, and have two children.

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-- I sang at their wedding. It was an honor.

-- During our time on the factory assembly line, we got a job - for one night only - as lingerie models, at a private party. This is another story I need to write some day. Only with Jackie would I be a lingerie model at some random house somewhere ... we both rebelled against wearing any nightgown with "empire waists" - we both have big boobs, and "empire" does not work well for us. We actually got into fights with the organizer of the thing, standing there in our underwear in the back room, looking at some flowy empire-waisted nightmare, and both of us saying, "No. I am not wearing that." We were the only two models there - so the organizer was effed, basically. We tried to put a layer of IRONY over the whole experience, so that we could survive it with our souls intact - but it was not easy, man. It was all very Flashdance. By day? She works on an assembly line. By night, she rocks an empire-waisted naughty nightie and tries to keep her soul intact!

-- Jackie and Mitchell came to a Halloween party dressed as Jackie's grandparents, Chester and Millie. (Click below the fold to see the image.)That is one of my favorite photos of my friends EVER. TAKEN. Look at the anxiety in Mitchell's eyes. Chester doesn't know WHAT is going on, and he feels a little bit out of his comfort zone. And look at Jackie's face. Her mouth is open. Her hand pats Chester's arm comfortingly. She is so obviously soothing Chester. "It's all right, dear, it's all right ..."

-- Jackie said to me once, when I was torturing myself about having three dates on one day, "You are a burning icon in the Chicago sky."

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-- One night Jackie and I decided to walk to the beach, in Rhode Island, to see the sunrise. It was a 7 mile walk. This is a story I NEED to write as an essay. It's an entire novel, what happened on that damn walk. It was the longest walk ever, and when we reached the beach - on that cold night - it was still HOURS before sunrise.

-- We were the first to come upon a drunk driving accident once, on a lonely country road, at midnight. We saw a car on its side. It had obviously been coming from the opposite direction, came into our lane, went up on the field embankment, and flipped. It was freaky to be the first ones there. We clearly heard someone moaning in the car. Jackie went running up to one of the dark houses ... and banged on the door, shouting for them to call for an ambulance. Within minutes, the entire fire department, police department, and EMT staff came screaming out of the country dark.

Jackie and I ended up standing up on a nearby grassy knoll, watching the entire thing. There was a wasted fat gentleman standing up in the car - which was on its side. So he was standing, with his feet on the passenger window, banging against the driver-window which was now above his head. His belly was protruding and hard - a serious beer gut. He looked like he was trapped in a fish tank. He could have not only fucking killed someone, but he could have killed US. If we had come around that corner 15 seconds earlier, he would have smashed right into us. So I have no sympathy for him. He's lucky he's alive. Another car came along, and decided to stop and watch - because the whole road was blocked off. Two really cute and friendly college guys stood and watched, and ended up joining Jackie and me on the grassy knoll. MUCH flirting then occurred. We were shamelessly flirting at the scene of a drunken car accident. Jackie and I roared about this later. The EMTs finally got the guy out of the car - and he put up a struggle - A policeman scolded him, saying, "You need to do what we say, sir." And fat-drunk man uttered these now-mythic words - "I hear ya, trooper!" He said it in a jolly tone, a cooperative tone, a buddy-buddy tone. Also, let's add on the Rhode Island accent. "I heah yah, troopah!" To this day, Jackie and I still use "I heah ya, troopah" in normal everyday conversation. "I mean, I'm just really upset right now ... do you hear what I'm saying?" "I heah yah, troopah."

-- We got to have an enormous stage fight that opened the show of Edwin Drood. I actually got to flip Jackie over a ledge, and she plummeted down through the air. (A mattress was placed at the bottom - out of sight of the audience - for her to land). We rolled down stairs together. We stamped on each other's feet. We shouted obscenities - in thick Cockney accents. We chased each other up and down the aisles. We pulled each other's wigs. It is the most fun I've ever had on stage. And the ending was always the best. When I just grabbed onto her (in a highly rehearsed way, of course) and flipped her over the ledge. Also, we were dressed up in mid-19th century Music Hall get-ups - with huge feathers coming out of our heads, and flashy petticoats, and heaving bosoms, and sillks and taffetas - slutty-looking (those Music Hall girls were often prostitutes) and yet - with some of the charm of the era. Not showing EVERYthing. We were circus horses. So the two of us - in our Music Hall outfits, and outlandish makeup - beating the crap up out of each other. GLORIOUS!!!

-- "Jeremy, wipe your wicked ass." No way can I ever explain that quote - give context - how it came about. It is unexplainable. But I am STILL laughing about it. It needs to be said in a nasal priggish voice, vaguely British: "Jeremy, wipe your wicked ass." The words "wicked ass" must be RELISHED, too - give them more emphasis than the other words. You judge the ass as being "wicked" - yet you also find the "wicked"-ness of the ass strangely titillating.

-- "Oo say drak."

-- Morning after a wine-drenched debauched night in college. Jackie, Brooke and I lay in my bed. Aching with our hangovers, not talking, We were HURTING. Jackie slowly opened her eyes, perceived her condition for a silent moment, and then stated, flatly, "You could tap my liver and feed communion to a small Catholic church."


Great friend. One of my best friends in the world.


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I love you, Jackie!!! Happy birthday!


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Chester and Millie. Millie: "Eeeeeeverything's going to be okay, dear ..."

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April 8, 2009

"The Babies Got The Blues" (director: Rachel Hamilton)

My friend Rachel Hamilton shot a short documentary last year, about the Delta Blues Museum's Arts and Education Program in Clarksdale, Mississippi - a fascinating community of blues musicians, committed to passing on the torch of the blues to the younger generation.

Great stuff.

Click below to watch the two parts. About 15 minutes all in all.

I love it when the little boy says, "Not all day. Sometime we gotta go home!"

Wonderful job, Hamilton.




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April 6, 2009

Dying dreams

Allison and I went to MOMA yesterday to see the current photography exhibit going on: Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West. We both love photography. There were some old favorites on display (Dennis Hopper's "Double Standard", for example - a photograph I love dearly), but lots of new things, and it was interesting - there were a couple of photographers I found myself drawn to, and it almost became a game. At one point, I thought - "Well, I obviously like so-and-so's work a lot - his stuff is continuing to CALL to me from the wall."

One photo, by William Gedney, was my favorite in the entire exhibit. I stared at it for maybe 15 minutes. I can't say what I was thinking or feeling, but I do know that my mind unhinged from itself, and floated off into memories, dreams, reflections. The photo seemed to not just be itself, but something else. It wasn't didactic, like many of the photos were - trying to "make a comment". It just was what it was, but the implications were enormous, and very emotional for me. I entered the photo, but not just that - it kind of ushered me into my own past, my own dreams for myself, and what it's like when ... well. Things don't work out, basically.

It took me some digging on this rainy thundery morning but I found it. I discovered an enormous online archive of Gedney's stuff - huge - and as I started browsing, I again got lost - in my own thoughts and memories. Some of the images I actually recognize, but many were new to me. He's unbelievable. He's got that late 50s-early-to-mid-60s sensibility that really resonates with me. The culture on the cusp of something. Dennis Hopper's stuff has that too. The "old" world still visible, the coffee shops and late-night diners - the milk bottles on the stoop ... but change is coming up from below. William Gedney made many trips across the country during that time, and many of his photos are of migrant workers, protests, Native Americans ... and a lot of it is just ... OBJECTS. Which is obviously my favorite kind of photograph. Cars at the curb, 1955. A house with a porch at night. An advertisement. There's something psychotic at work in some of these photos, and I can't put my finger on it.

Anyway, what can I say. I'm in love.

The photo that captivated me so much during the exhibit is below the jump.

It's what started the whole thing. I've been thinking about it all night and all morning. I'm okay (to all my protective worrywarts out there), just a bit ... thoughtful, maybe.

It seems to have something to say to me personally.

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April 5, 2009

What it's like when your good friends read your blog

My friend Allison sent me an email recently about one of my posts. She knows the backstory, of course, as friends do - she knows all of the stuff surrounding the little I reveal here - and so she needed to know more. Part of her email read:

i looked for some clue as to your emotional state in the placement of commas. i was convinced that there was some code embedded in your words...like those satanic messages black sabbath and ozzy ozbourne burned into their LPs which could only be heard if you spun the record backwards.

I am still laughing out loud. I called her and we were guffawing on the phone about this.

Allison said, "Don't you remember that, with Ozzy?"

"Of course I do!"

Allison said, "I remember feeling afraid to even TRY it, when I was a kid, because I really felt like I would be inviting the Devil into my life."

I am shaking with laughter as I type this. The fact that she would read my blog in that manner was so funny and the whole capper was Allison saying, "Yeah, I read that post and thought - Maybe if I hold the computer up to a mirror and read it that way I'll see what she's really saying?"

We're going to MOMA today to see some photography. I'm excited. Haven't been there in a while. And I can fill her in. I can give her the embedded satanic messages in person.

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April 4, 2009

KGB Bar: Red Hen Press poetry reading

Last night, I met up with Ted at the KGB Bar in the East Village, to hear my friend Ernie read from his book Sixty Sonnets (I reviewed it here). The book was published by the Red Hen Press, so three other "Red Hen Press" authors were reading as well - two poets and one novelist. It's been a long time since I've been to KGB Bar, and it was good to be back. To quote Anne Shirley, that place has "scope for imagination". Of course all the walls are a deep red. You know. Soviet.

It was a great turnout, tons of people, wine, lots of things to buy - books - and then of course there was Ernie, in a suit ("Forgive me for being dramatically over-dressed," he said when he began his reading), strolling around passing out tchatchkes with E-verse Radio on them (his brand), and also cool memorabilia that he has created for his book. I walked out of there with my bag overflowing with key chains, stickers, and, very cool, a beer bottle - labeled Sixty Sonnets - with a rolled-up piece of paper inside, with one of the poems on it. Message in a bottle. When the editor at Red Hen Press introduced Ernie she said, "It's funny because Ernie ... well, he's kind of a hustler ... and that's nice to see in a poet." Meanwhile, there was Ernie strolling around passing out E-verse keychains and working the room, basically illustrating her point.

It was wonderful to see Ted, too, who is so deeply buried in schoolwork right now that it is tough to find time to see him! It was good for him to take a break - and it was a great New York kind of night: free, first of all, with wine, and interesting people, and we also got seats at a table in the corner, which was good, because it was so packed a lot of people had to stand.

Ernie read from his collection, and also read some poems that will be in his next collection - some of them I have already read, but it's always cool to hear someone read their own work. To see where they go with it, how they put themselves into it, what they choose to emphasize.

One of the things I love about Ernie's work is how funny it often is. How suddenly light-hearted and ridiculous. I mean, how many poets dedicate a poem to Ray Harryhausen?? "I always feel sorry for the monsters," confessed Ernie. Poetry readings can often be solemn precious affairs. This one was not. It was a blast.

Afterwards, Ted and I went and chatted with Ernie for a bit, congratulating him, and we talked a bit about my review of Ernie's book. I was joking, "I was laying it on thick, don't you think? 'As JAMES JOYCE once said ... SO DOES ERNIE.'" We were all laughing. Ernie said, "Seriously - the comparisons you put in there were killing me! I was also compared to Michael Jackson in the same week. James Joyce and Michael Jackson." "You can die in peace now. But you know I meant every word."

And so I did.

Then Ted and I went out to go grab a bite, not an easy prospect at 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night in the East Village. We tried a couple of our favorite joints, only to find them packed, with a half-hour wait ... and finally we walked up to 11th Street to our favorite tapas place. Ted used to have annual birthday bashes there, and it's an awesome place. We couldn't believe there was a table free, but there was, right up by the front window. You have to go down a couple of steps to enter the place, and one of the best parts about it is its decor. The entire ceiling is draped in fishing nets, strung with blue and red lights. The waiters are knowledgeable, fast, and uniformly sweet. Great wine. Ted and I have our favorite tapas to get (why fix it if it ain't broke) so we ordered a bunch, and then settled in for some good conversation (shouted above the music).

I was a bit manic yesterday, for various reasons, and I had had a good hour where all I did was cry and laugh at the same time ... I had to get up and walk around the block and cry and laugh like a crazy person, circling Chelsea Market - and my hair was huge and wild - I had tried to calm it down but there was wind yesterday so when I walked into the poetry reading, I felt like I looked as though I had just leapt off my Harley. "Yo, what up, Red Hen peeps ... got my bike outside ... good to see you." It was good to not be manic, you know, all by myself, in my apartment - I talked Ted's EARS OFF - but he talked my ears off, too.

It was really really fun. Yesterday was a very good day.

Some pictures below. Of course, once the events in question started - I stopped taking pictures - which means, yet again, that I have photos only of PLACES, not of people. But during the poetry reading, even though lots of people were taking pictures, I just wanted to be "in" it, and not trying to capture it.


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April 1, 2009

Happy (belated) birthday, Ann Marie

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Ann Marie and I became pretty much instant-friends in 1993, and within, oh, one or two weeks, complete lunacy took over our lives. We would sit in her car talking about the Anne of Green Gables books - she was the only person I knew who was AS conversant in the entire series as myself. Infamous moment - we were talking about Anne of Windy Poplars, and we were remembering the little boy Anne befriends, the one who lives in a shack in the woods with his stern scary father. I am now not remembering which of us said the following line, so Ann, remind me - but anyway, the two of us sat in her car talking about the little boy - and one of us said, "I can't remember his name - what was his name?" And the other one of us said, "I know his dog's name was Carlo."

I AM DYING.

We were HOWLING with laughter and we STILL say that line. "I know his dog's name was Carlo."

Instant friends from that point on.

Another moment from that same conversation, still talking about Anne of Windy Poplars (and again, this was early in our friendship - maybe a week in!) - and we were talking about the school play that Anne gets involved in, and all of the family psychodramas that come up, with the Pringle family - and Ann Marie worked herself up into a frenzy just thinking about it. And here is how that part of the conversation went:

Ann (all angry and emphatic): "And let me tell you, Miss Jen Pringle, with the cool green eyes - that you cannot and WILL not steal the spotlight from I'm sorry but I cannot remember the other girl's name --"
Me: (interrupting flatly) "Sophy Sinclair."

Again: DYING.

It was as though we had met a longlost friend from childhood. Yes, we should have been friends when we were 8, but we weren't, so we immediately began to make up for lost time.

The adventures we have had have been without number.

Once we drove by a guy's apartment and stopped on the street to stare at it. This was not just a guy I was interested in, or stalking in a mild manner. This was a guy I had been involved with for a year at that point. I had basically seen him the day before. I have no idea what prompted us to go sit and stare at his apartment, but anyway, we were very nervous that he would basically walk down the street, and totally bust us, freakin' sitting in a parked car staring up at his window ... and there was a hilarity in both of us about that. The light was on in his front room. Ann said (and she was dead serious): "See, that looks like that light was left on when he went to bed, he forgot to turn it off."

How can you tell that from just looking at the lamp through the window??? We still laugh about that, it's actually a beautiful (and nuts) symbol of a good friendship. "Look, I know it's insane, but I am still willing to analyze the quality of the light through a window, if you need me to do that."

We performed at Milwaukee Summer Fest together (you know: "Give names. Check in.") For four days, we were treated like mega-stars. I'm not sure, but I think it might be the most fun I have ever had.

Here we are, with Pat, our "give names, check in" friend (and, briefly), employer. Huh. That's weird. That's our BOSS in the photo booth with us. Yet neither of us seem to feel the need to put in an urgent call to HR complaining of a hostile workplace. Mainly because there is no HR. Also, we're both laughing. Anyway.

Give names. Check in. That's all you have to do.


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We were extras in a series of Huey Lewis videos, based on the old American Bandstand show, with scaffolds surrounding the stage, covered in people, dancing, hanging out, etc. Huey Lewis and his band played live for, oh, about six hours. It was incredible. When they would mess up a lyric, we'd have to start over. It felt like the entire rockabilly community of Chicago and Milwaukee was there, gyrating around on scaffolds, wearing their own glasses and wardrobe, because, you know, none of us dressed like we were in the contemporary world, anyway. Yes, my hair was pouffed up into this huge bouffant thing, but I could wear my own glasses for the shoot, since, uhm, they were prescription, they were mine, but they were also so retro that I looked like I had stepped out of an actual American Bandstand broadcast, just by standing there) - and we danced around on scaffolds as Huey Lewis played - LIVE - below. Again: so much fun.


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It was one of those spontaneous events, too, where you had no time to plan, you just had to say Yes. Ann Marie heard the call go out on the radio that morning - "Extras wanted for day-long Huey Lewis shoot" - and called me immediately, freaking out. Huey Lewis was my first concert, don't you know, and Ann Marie loved him too. "Sheila, we have to go - they just want us to show up at the radio station in early 60s clothes." "YES. LET'S GO RIGHT NOW."

She came to pick me up within 20 minutes and we were off to the radio station. It was great because it was impulsive and we both just "propelled ourselves into the blazing star" of the experience.

We have been friends for years, and she is tremendously dear to me. A truly wonderful woman, humorous, giving, smart ... and she's there for you when you need her.

Below are some of my favorite "Diary Friday" entries about Ann Marie - including an experience that ranks as my favorite random experience of ALL. TIME. Stuff like that happens when we're together, and the beauty of it is: she's the kind of friend who really GETS the beauty of such moments, too.

Happy birthday, dear friend. Thank you for all the times you have "propelled yourself into the blazing star" with me. You're the best.


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Look, I know his dog's name was Carlo, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

November

I remember events by my outfits. That night, at Pat, was a blue denim and black mini-skirt kind of night. I had a feeling re: M.; by this point I totally believed he would be there. I sat for the first set with Ann and she came back after going to the bathroom ("doing a sweep" for M.) and said, "Let your heart SING!"

I went back to sit with him. I felt like I was shooting out light from beneath my skin. I was so happy!

Pat had me sing with him. The intro to that song pulls my heart up and out of my body. He makes me feel like I could fly. If only I could run fast enough.

After the show, everyone was heading to the Emerald Queen, all of us exiting together. Pat was leaving too. I made M do the velociraptor for Pat.

M. did NOT want to do his velociraptor for Pat, and I made him. Afterwards, M. was just wincing about it. "Pat McCurdy was having none of my velociraptor."

We all had this HYSTERICAL walk over to the Emerald Queen. M and I, our arms around each other, were lurching across Lincoln Avenue. It was 1:30 in the morning, and a huge crowd of us had been set loose. Gus Kapinsky was leapfrogging over parking meters, one after the other after the other. We made M. watch him do this.

Still stuck on Pat's clear animosity towards him, and Pat's indifference to his velociraptor, M. stood on the curb and pretended he was about to leap off and commit suicide. "I'm gonna jump!" he screamed.

No cars in sight. Long empty black street. Street lights changing from green to yellow to red with no cars there.

Suddenly M. announced bluntly, "A velociraptor can go 75-80 miles an hour" and he took off. Other Lounge Ax people heading to the Emerald Queen, some in 2s, others in larger groups, saw him gallop by, and started laughing, pointing. "Look! It's Dinosaur Boy!"

Voices echoing. Cold.

M. was a velociraptor. He peered hungrily into the windows of a car pulling out of a lot.

I was laughing so hard I thought I might need medical attention.

M. said to me after, "When I move my body - people laugh."

Thinking of the velociraptor, the spontaneous jazz dances, the circus horses, the ostrich running through my apartment, I had to agree.

At one point, at the Emerald Queen, some Sinatra song came on and M. suddenly leapt up and made a spectacle of himself with an impromptu jazz dance. A crowd surrounded him, roaring with laughter. Ann and I were mopping off tears. There were actual people watching, but M. was performing for an imaginary crowd, which was my favorite part. Also, he and I had literally been in the middle of a conversation, there hadn't even been a lull, and he responded, mid-sentence, to the call of the music.

M. turned to me suddenly, later, and said, "You wanna see my circus horse?"

You really have to ask?

The place was packed with people and suddenly M. pranced through the crowd, and all I can say is he WAS a circus horse down to the expression in his damn eyeballs.

I heard people murmuring, "What's going on" as M. high-stepped around me. He became himself for a second to explain to me what he did physically to become a horse (he had a theory about it) and then he became a horse again.

Ann turned around in the middle of all this and saw him high-stepping by. She watched him for a moment and then slowly looked to me for an explanation. Her expression was priceless.

I said quietly, "He's a circus horse."

She nodded, accepting this. "Oh."

M. said to me, word for word, "You and me - we laugh. We hang out with each other and we laugh. Know what I mean? It makes me happy. I like laughing with you. For too long I've lived my life like that Pat song about being artistic. I don't want to do that anymore. I like being happy."

And then - 2 weeks later - came my birthday extravaganza, held during a Pat show at Lounge Ax.

Ann Marie basically decorated the bar. She is so incredible. There was a huge bunch of balloons ("Here. Arrange these in a festive manner," she ordered Lady Elaine).

(Ed: This is so hostile but there was another Pat fan whom she and I did not like, who was a bit crazy, and obsessed with McCurdy in a kind of stalkerish way - not in the ultra COOL and sophisticated way that ANN and I were obsessed with Pat McCurdy- and basically this stalker-fan's nose and his chin almost touched - so Ann Marie and I called him "Lady Elaine" after the puppet on Mr. Rogers, because we felt there was a resemblance. We did not call him "Lady Elaine" to his face, but we would blatantly refer to him as such, "Wow, look at how Lady Elaine is hovering around Pat..." "Loved Lady Elaine's crazy air guitar during 'Knock Things Over'" So the image of Ann Marie ordering "Lady Elaine" to arrange balloons in a "festive manner" ... It's STILL funny to me, Ann bossing Lady Elaine around)

Ann Marie baked cupcakes, brought candy. It was a total extravaganza. Everyone knew it was my birthday. I wore my mermaid dress and a black choker. (Ed: How embarrassing - but I warned you up front! Every diary entry during the "magic time" is accompanied by a description of my clothes)

I went to find M. and he was sitting at the bar, so cute, waiting for me. I was so happy to see him I was high on him. We were a happy couple. We are a happy couple.

I pointed to all the balloons, arranged by Lady Elaine. "Those are for me."

He asked me how my actual birthday was and I told him pretty bad and that I had cried on the train. He was hurt by this news. "You cried on your birthday?"

Then he said, "I thought about you on your birthday. I thought about calling you, but ..." and he stopped himself with this very inward-look on his face. He had no word of excuse, he looked confused at his own behavior. "I don't know why I didn't."

I said, "You should have! Of course, at the first sound of your voice I would have dissolved into tears."

We laughed at that.

I asked him how his Thanksgiving was and he said, "It was all right," but with such an evident edgy look of misery and anxiety in his eyes. He cannot mask his emotions. I responded to the look on his face, not his words. "Not good, huh."

He shrugged and then said, "Well - clearly I have issues."

I couldn't help myself. I burst into laughter right in his face. He has assimilated me! Me, always talking about "issues". He looked truly confused, like, "What did I just say?" - and I kept laughing, and then he began YELLING at me, "No! No! I don't have issues. I have PROBLEMS. I don't have issues. I have PROBLEMS."

Ann Marie wrote me a fairy story for my birthday. I was living in such a euphoric state. Everything was perfect. Ann also gave me flannel sheets! Bless you, Ann!! I love them. She went totally nuts for my birthday. She is an incredible party planner.

I had raved to M. about how I wanted flannel sheets, and he told me I had to get some. So I showed them to him, all excited. "Look, M.! Flannel sheets!" He was cute - kind of withdrawn, but smiling, shy, kind. "Hey! You just told me you wanted some!"

Half of our conversations are about objects and their faults or virtues: bureaus, incense, coffee makers, coffee tables, banana pickers jackets, new blue jeans, veal parmesan sandwiches, his special mattress he had as a teenager, etc.

I loved it that M. would get all puffed up like a peacock because he was "the guy with Sheila". He would pretend there was an imaginary crowd around him and he'd say in a very over-it casual tone, "Yeah - I'm with her. It's no big deal. I'm just with her."

M. told me his mother said his haircut made him look like a "jackass".

We left the bar with a huge fanfare because of all my gifts and balloons.

Pat had had me sing, and had also led the entire place in singing happy birthday to me.

M. helped me carry some of my stuff out. Ann said he was behaving "very husbandly" which is so true. He was loaded down with all my gifts, and I was keeping him waiting as I said good-bye to everyone five times. He was grumbling about it, and impatient.

"I have to say good-bye to Ann Marie!"

"Didn't you already do that?"

"Yeah, but not for the last time!"

He sat in the car, exhaling frustration as I flew around hugging everyone and saying goodbye to Ann Marie 10 times.

We released all of my balloons into the air outside of Lounge Ax. They floated up over the Biograph and disappeared into the black.

I climbed into the car with M., this person I have known for almost 2 years now, and we peeled away from the curb.


November

Ann Marie and I had an adventure. Casey (one of Ann's friends from work) won a party at the Beaumont. Ann was invited and so was I, by association. We both felt out of it but we decided to go.

There was a major snowfall. We drove around looking for parking for 45 MINUTES.

The bar was jam-packed for the first Bulls game. Everyone was shrieking, "4-PEAT! 4-PEAT!" People, it's the first game! Stop re-hashing the future! Can you let the season happen, please?

Ann's British friend Trevor stood at the bar, the whole place erupting into insanity over some play or other, and Trevor yelled at the top of his lungs in his British accent, "GOD BLESS AMERICA!" This made Ann and I laugh very hard.

Ann Marie and I were so into each other that we found it difficult to be social with others. We were pretending to be gorillas, picking bugs off of each other and then eating them. We began discussing patty cake games, and of course we had to try them out and see what we remembered.

And that was that. We patty caked FOREVER. Ann Marie literally had bruises on her hands the next day.

We lost the words in the middle of Miss Mary Mack - at the same time - a big blank overcame the both of us at the same time. But we got Coke and a Smile down to perfection. We couldn't stop. People kept craning their necks over to look, because it sounded like some kind of fight was going on with all that slapping.

Ann Marie said, totally business-like, "I'll call my sister tonight for those Miss Mary Mack words." Then she had to stop herself and say, "Ann Marie, what are you talking about?"

Finally we left, having made a spectacle of ourselves as always.

Big beautiful snowstorm.

Then came a once-in-a-lifetime event:

There was a bouncer at the door. Very chunky, no neck, flat top, He-Man Action Figure. He spoke to us and Ann and I were both immediately aloof.

"Hey, what was that hand thing you girls was doin'?"

Hand thing? Believe it or not, we didn't know what he was talking about. We looked at each other, confused, and he went on, imitating our patty-caking, "You know!"

Light dawned on us. "Oh! That!"

Ann confessed to this person, this stranger, "We can't remember the words to Miss Mary Mack though."

He said, "I do!"

So ... he sang the words for us (with gusto too) and Ann and I patty-caked to his accompaniment. We made him do it 6 times.

It was so wonderful, so hilarious, so joyful: the snow coming down, our hands stinging, tears of laughter in our eyes, patty-caking on the sidewalk with his tough-guy voice singing:

"Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack
All dressed in black black black
With silver buttons buttons buttons
All down her back back back"

He kind of bounced up and down as he sang, too. I will never forget it! Totally classic!

"I hate to ask you this," Ann or I would say to him, breathless, "but could you do that one more time?"

All of his friends walked by during this insane time, and made fun of him mercilessly, but we couldn't stop. I felt that if we didn't keep going the spell would be broken, and Ann and I would be dressed in rags, and the bouncer would turn into a pumpkin or a mouse.

Finally we left, calling good-bye to our momentary soulmate joyously. It made us both so HIGH. We raved about it the whole way home.

And Jim arrived from London yesterday. He's staying with me and Mitchell.

Ann, Mitchell and I dragged Jim and his jet lag along to go see Pat. Ann and I are getting so juvenile and it's got to stop. We decided to "go glam", so she came over to primp with me. She had on this navy blue flowing thing with brass buttons (just like my eggplant flowing thing). I had on this long green blazer and flowing pants.

We were scurrying about like lunatics.

Jim and Mitchell were down the hall in Mitchell's room talking, but also listening to our girly blither from the bathroom. Mitchell informed Jim bluntly, "They're 7."

And at that moment, as if on cue, came the sounds of Miss Mary Mack from the living room.



JAN TO MARCH, FRAGMENTS

Joe: "Member in Pulp Fiction --"
Ann: "No, see now, that was Sheila."


Ann: "Is that the one where your hair is different?"
Me: "No, that's your fantasy."



Me: "I'm just gonna be myself--"
Ann: "I think you should. Of course, if you need to be married ..."



Me: "I think M. knew he could show up and I would let him know I wanted him to be there --"
Ann: "Or you'd blatantly ignore him like that night at the Wrigleyside."



Fragments from M.'s improv show
"Thank you, Gore Vidal."

"Gash - Like a Wound - is offended."

"I wish I was a deformed midget.



Mitchell: "Something has happened that I keep forgetting."



Me: "Isn't it great that M. is back in my life?"
Ann: "I think it's totally great, even though you know this is only going to lead to haikus and humidifiers."



Snippets from M.'s improv show
"I usually save an extra seat for the Narrator."

Roy, the Idiot Man-Child from the Service Station

"You're not even a zoologist!"



"Of course, we need to park on a street where there is a raging fire." - Me and Ann




Fragments - from M.'s improv show

"Leave some room, John!"

"I like working with pigs!"

"You're gonna have to wear an eyepatch!"




"Well, that will make you more three-dimensional." - Me (weaving a web of lies with Ann Marie)



"You sent the man 30 haikus. I don't think he'll mind if you come to a couple of his shows." - Ann




Me to M.: "I have a kinder-whore appeal ... or at least so I've been told."



Joey, talking to the television, as we watched 30something: "These are nice people, Susannah. They want to like you because they love Garry."




From the party 12/10/94
"These Oreos are insanely delicious." - Joey

"You just never know what will happen with broccoli." - Me

"I just kicked a pig." - Ann

Heard simultaneously by Ann:
Me: (with a mouth full of food) "I have an eating disorder."
Mitchell: "I can honestly say I've never slept with ----- oh, wait --- yes, I have."

George and Ann, providing dialogue to an old movie, with the sound turned down:
George: "That's why your dancing frustrates me - because I can't move!"
Ann: "Well, don't you think I understand that? I mean, look at my eyebrows!"




Me to M. (and I was dead serious): "It would totally not surprise me if I disappeared into a white slavery sex ring at some point."



Me to Mitchell (about M.): "Isn't he so sweet?"
Mitchell: "He is. He is sweet." Long pause. "He's a lunatic."



Mitchell: "The improv jam is pushing all my buttons."



Mitchell to me: "If you say 'improv jam' one more time, I'm going to scream at the top of my lungs."



Ann: "I was thinking about your life the other day ..."


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March 31, 2009

And then, in the middle of the maelstrom ..

reminders that you are blessed. The reminders are everywhere.

So if I haven't thanked you personally , thank you to those in the last 24 hours who have been there for me.


Michael, for being the pestiest pushiest most annoying ex-boyfriend a girl could ever hope to have. You know I love it.

Carter, for your amazing comment to my old post about Magic Mountain, with an acknowledgement to Mitchell woven into it - meant a lot to me. I will make sure Mitchell reads it.

My cousin Mike, for randomly sending me a book he loved - that I received yesterday. "This will definitely get you reading again" said the note enclosed. Heart. My heart.

Catherine, for your email today. Words cannot express what it meant.

David, for putting up with me, and my damn emails, for putting up with me being retarded and me not knowing what to do. For wanting to be involved. For helping me more than you will ever know.

Eartha Kitt. For "Beale St. Blues". You helped get me through today.

My friend Beth, for calling me at 7 a.m. this morning (she knew I'd be up!) - and I answered and she then proceeded to pretend that she was calling from "the Animal Rescue League" and that "we've had a complaint about the treatment of your animal ..."

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March 25, 2009

How we talk to each other.

"I wish I had been more of a slut."
"I actually was a slut. It's not all it's cracked up to be."
"I know. The grass is always greener ... Still, I feel like I would have made a great slut."
"Yeah, I see what you mean."
"I have the soul of a slut."
"Totally. You really do."


Speaking of sluts, this post from Dooce made me laugh out loud. Women who love to fuck their husbands?? What will the world come to next? (The comments over there are almost as funny as the post, as all of these "husband-fucking sluts" come out of the woodwork to declare themselves.)


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March 14, 2009

Allison's wisdom

[said in a hopeful encouraging voice] "He was either a drug addict, or he had a drinking problem, or maybe he drove drunk and killed or maimed someone. Something like that."

Flipping thru the channels: "I'm in the mood for murder."

"Yeah, let's watch this." [A Dateline special about a man who killed someone while, apparently, sleepwalking.] "It has everything I love - sleep problems, and lots of murder."


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March 9, 2009

Is that ....? No, it couldn't be.

TWENTY PLUS YEARS AGO

He wasn't in the theatre department, but he was peripheral to it, somehow - perhaps he took a couple of acting classes, or worked in a scene shop, or dated someone in the department - I can't remember. He came to all the parties, he was one of us ... and yet NOT one of us ...

Because he wasn't 100% ensconced in the hothouse atmosphere of our department, he was kind of a rare commodity, and sightings of him thrilled us, and everybody LOVED him. We would get excited when we heard he was coming to a party. "Mark's coming? Oh, cool!" we would say to each other.

He had the easygoing funny energy of a boy who was always coming off an awesome game of ultimate Frisbie on the Quad. A real Rhode Island type.

He and I once played an impromptu chase game through the lobby of the theatre, and instead of saying "Go" to begin the chase, it was decided (by whom?) that one of us had to shout, "Cracker Barrel Cheese." So poor random students, who had nothing to do with the theatre, but were just cutting through the building on their way somewhere else, had to dodge the whizzing lunatics racing around columns shouting, "CRACKER BARREL CHEESE." at each other.

He was a peripheral person to the department, but very well-liked, and we all remember him fondly. "Hey member him? Wonder what happened to him?"

A COUPLE WEEKS AGO

I posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook from a Halloween party we had in college. I've posted some of the photos here repeatedly. Of course, all of my friends are on Facebook, so I put up all of these crazy pictures from the party, and tagged everyone. Hilarity ensued. Memory Lane blossomed forth. There is one photo from that party of Mark bobbing for apples. He was with a girl who appeared to be dressed as a woodland nymph. And he had some insane wig on. Mitchell, Jackie, other friends - were all commenting, "Where is he now? He was so great! Look at how adorable he is. I wonder what he's up to now!" There was one comments section in particular where we all just sat around (virtually), reminiscing about how much fun he was.

THREE DAYS AGO

I got into an elevator. There was a guy in it already. Nobody else was in the elevator but us.

He said to me, "So ... ya think it's getting warmer out today?"

I had just been looking out the window, and saw huge dripping icicles on the roof - so I said (and I immediately liked this guy - I like people who are nice, and the way he opened up conversation was nice), "I just saw some dripping icicles out the window - almost like it was raining!"

He said, "Wow! Okay!"

There was something about him ...

He radiated niceness, and I needed nice-ness that day - it was a rough one ... but there was something else ... The elevator ride wasn't long, we only had 7 floors together ... but I took one quick glance at him, then took another glance, and finally ...

I took the leap.

"Are you Mark [last name]?"

He gave me this weird excited look, almost like he was on the edge of something, like he wanted to say something too, and he said, "Yes."

By that point we had reached the lobby floor - I said, "I'm Sheila - from college!"

He said (and this was the best part), "The second you walked in the elevator, I took one look at you and thought ... Is that ....? No ... it couldn't be ..."

I said, "Just the way you were so nice when you asked me about the weather ... I thought to myself ... Is that ....?"

He said, "I had to talk to you - just to be sure ..."

At some point in the middle of this, we hugged, trying to get over how weird and wonderful it was ... that we had both recognized each other ("CRACKER BARREL CHEESE") and tiptoed around it for 5 floors before making the jump of faith.

We stood in the bustling hallway and talked for about half an hour, catching up, laughing, all that - and of course I had to fill him in on the whole love-fest he had missed out on on Facebook literally TWO WEEKS PRIOR. It's not like we all sit around and talk about Mark all day long. We probably haven't referenced his name in over 20 years. I haven't seen him since college. It was the scanning of those photos into Facebook, and the picture of him bobbing for apples - uploaded to Facebook two damn weeks before - that made us all stop and ponder: what happened to him?

Ask and ye shall receive.

Two weeks after saying, "Where is he? Can we find him??", I run into the damn guy in the elevator, after two decades of nothingness, and get the answers to all of my questions.

How does one catch the other one up on 20 years of life? We did not try. The connections, however, abound. Where I work right now - he works on the floor above me - and if I had X-ray vision, I could basically see thru the ceiling to where he sits. Truly bizarre. But I loved seeing him, and I was laughing - "Dude, this is so strange - we were all just crushing on you like two weeks ago on Facebook ... remembering you fondly, all that - so weird - "

He just kept laughing at the image of that.

He looks exactly the same to me. All it took was that closer glance. And I feel strangely gratified that I look enough like my college self that he would glance at me in the elevator and think: Is that ....? Could it be ....?

Yes. It is.

And I am still doubtful when David refers to my life as a "literary conceit".


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March 3, 2009

Observations, no conclusions

1. My watch. So feminine, Sheila, so delicate!

2. My red cheeks

3. Mitchell's matching sweater set

4. The guy watching in the background

5. I appear to have nails, which is surprising to me

6. I look like my mother. Only intoxicated.

7. Mitchell's hair

8. I miss those earrings.

Okay, one conclusion:

We are madly in love with each other. Obviously.


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Grooming graduates

... I love the seriousness here. Like, it is life or death that I fix the way her tassle is hanging.

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February 27, 2009

My friend Phil talks about sex

My good friend Phil, we go way back, has just put up a new video which has made my day. I will not say any more than that.

So funny.

Phil talks about sex:




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February 22, 2009

This is how we do it

This is how we are.

If you've been following along on my site, then you'll know.


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Mickey Rourke and Michael - and the strange and exciting melding of those two - helped me get through this terrible fall.

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Side effects of South Beach

Jen: So ... cutting out carbs is supposed to skyrocket your sex drive. Have you noticed that?

Me: Oh God. I don't know if I can handle it if it goes any higher.

Jen: I totally understand.


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February 19, 2009

Beheaded before Skyward

I went over to Jen's last night (we lived together for nine years, there's a special bond there), and I had my South Beach snack and she made a veggie burger and we talked our heads off for many many hours. We talked about my life, her life, men, books, my book - oh, and this was funny - she had this random book on her coffee table and we could not stop laughing about it. It was called DIVORCED, BEHEADED, SURVIVED and it was a "feminist reinterpretation" of the wives of Henry VIII. But we could not take it seriously, and kept shouting, randomly, "What do you want from me? I was DIVORCED, I was BEHEADED, and I SURVIVED." I was like, "How on earth does one SURVIVE after one has been beheaded?" Jen would burst in from another room and declaim, "DIVORCED! BEHEADED! SURVIVED!"

I filled her in on the whole Skyward drama, and we both started laughing so hard that it was like I had been punched in the stomach. It was one of THOSE laughs. Tears were streaming down my face, Jen was cackling - we were looking through my screen shots, and HOWLING.

In the middle of all of this, my blackberry buzzed with an email. Throughout the night, our respective blackberries kept buzzing, so we would keep chatting, but check emails as well. Obnoxious to some, normal to us. I glanced down at the email I just received - it was from my cousin Mike - who has now, in a matter of 48 hours - gotten me one-degree away from Ben Marley. I was three degrees of separation on Monday, now I am one degree on Thursday. This is what happens when you "know" people. You ask one question: "Do you know Ben Marley?" and suddenly emails are flying back and forth, the posts I've written are being passed on to the man in question, and things begin to happen. I adore it. Stranger things have happened. Dean Stockwell hugged me last year (story at 11). I WILLED that to happen. And Stevie helped make it possible. I am now "friends" with Hedye Tehrani, one of my favorite actresses, on Facebook. She just "friended" me! What strange country, friends, is this? But since Jen and I had just been HOWLING about Skyward, crying off our mascara, it was even funnier. "Holy shit, Jen, listen to this ..." I read the email out. We were dying!

Jen's new man came over, and found us in this rather hilarious mascara-streaked state. He was nice and relaxed about it, nice guy. Jen said at one point, casually, to him, "Have you, by any chance, seen Skyward?"

We started guffawing. He had NOT seen Skyward, but he had seen all of the ABC Afterschool Specials, and we had a good reminiscing chat about all of them. They're all on DVD now, and I really need to reacquaint myself with them. Especially Lance Kerwin.

I realize that Lance Kerwin is now doing a U-turn for Jesus full time (look him up, you'll see what I mean - it seems like he is doing well, and that makes me strangely happy) -but I will always love him for his quivering sensitivity and victimized status in those ABC Afterschool Specials. The bowl cut and the sweet demeanor was not quite the over-the-moon effect of Ben Marley in his cowboy hat - but I saw the ABC Afterschool Specials when I was 10 and 11 and just a CHILD. By the time I was 12, I was ready for the glimpse of MAN-hood provided by Ben Marley in Skyward. It was like my response to Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back, seen at around the same time as Skyward. They came out the same year. A mere year before, I had been all pre-teen aching for the bowlcut sensitive underdog, and suddenly, a year later - through Ben Marley and Harrison Ford - I knew what the future was. Swaggering MEN. Not BOYS.

I didn't get to bed until three in the morning last night, which is so unlike me, but the whole night had been spent curled up on Jen's awesome vintage couch, having deep and emotional conversations, interspersed with guffaws of laughter about Skyward and my cousin Mike's emails.

It felt like at any moment there would be a knock at the door, and it would be Ben Marley standing there, saying, "Hi ... I hear you've been writing about me?"

I got an email from Mike at one point saying:

a) do you know who his father is?
b) GO TO BED

hahahahahaha

Of course I know who his father is. Look who I have had on my wall for almost 20 years.

But yes. I obeyed Mike. Time for bed. Do not resist the command of an O'Malley man. They have your best interests at heart.

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February 6, 2009

A moment captured

I love this photo for many reasons. Its truly candid nature, the people it shows - my good friends from college, Rolt and Nancy - but also just the composition of it, the three poses, the spaces in between us - the looks captured on all of our faces - I think it's a nice-looking photo in and of itself. Good job, Mum!

This is my graduation from college, and we are slowly moving up onto the stage on the quadrangle to receive our diplomas. My father, in resplendent red robes and a big black velvet beret, was sitting up there, ready to step in when it was my turn to personally hand me my diploma. It was a really really special moment.

But this photo is during the approach.

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February 5, 2009

"In olden days a glimpse of stocking ..."

The funniest thing about these already-funny pictures is that I can't quite remember what the joke was.

I know it had to do with me singing "Anything Goes" and doing inappropriately-placed and badly-executed tap solos, as my boyfriend went off into gales of laughter. He would make me do it. Any time, anywhere. He never got sick of it. But I can't remember where the joke came from, or what exactly it entailed.

These photos were taken with the self-timer on my camera, and I remember it was a freezing cold day, and he was driving me to some huge audition in Boston, I think - some regional theatre cattle-call. And instead of getting into serious audition mode, instead of being all business ... we spent some time in the parking lot taking pictures of me doing terrible tap solos in basically mid-sentence in my version of "Anything Goes". I think we might have been imagining how funny it would be if I had gone up onto the stage for my audition and instead of launching into my Medea monologue, or singing "Skylark" as planned - I started to do THIS. A capella. No warning.

So inappropriate!

What I love about these, so many years, later, is how hard he is obviously laughing.

I also love how in one of the photos you can tell that neither of my feet are touching the ground. I am truly airborne in my absurdity.

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February 1, 2009

The Alvin Ailey flat-back series

Here is a picture of my dear friend Shelagh and myself, before dance class at the great Alvin Ailey dance studio. We took classes in the famous Horton technique - which involves the "flat-back series", great for balance and also your abs and thighs - lots of squats and lunges - all with your back flat as a board ... but it sure makes you look ridiculous. We would watch the real dancers - the real Alvin Ailey dancers - taking classes and we would watch them do the same flat-back series and think, "God, it looks so elegant when they do it. We look like crouching Hobbits hidden midgets."

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January 30, 2009

Beth in the waves

I love this picture. The beach was pretty crowded that day, strangely enough, but I managed to get a shot of Beth (very pregnant, she would give birth a week later) standing in the surf, holding her daughter Ceileidh - and it gives the impression that they are the only two people at the beach. I like it a lot.

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January 29, 2009

Scanning Thursday

Here is Michael, lecturing me about something or other, as he chows down on his stack of French toast. We had done our show the night before, then probably hung out at his place or my place, watching movies (Johnny Handsome??) and kissing like lovesick teenagers in American Grafitti, and then met up for breakfast the next morning, to nurse endless cups of coffee and read our books. I loved it when he got vaguely annoyed with me and felt compelled to lecture me. I tried to make it happen as much as possible, and then would take pictures of the moment.

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January 27, 2009

Scanning Tuesday

I love this photo. It is Mitchell and Alec - my boyfriend for a semester in college - at a Halloween party (before we dropped the characterizations required of our costumes). Alec went as a nerd and Mitchell went as Jackie's grandfather Chester. Look at Mitchell's face here! Well, look at both of their faces. But not for too long. You might find yourself turned to stone.

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Scanning Tuesday

Down at Shedd Aqarium, in Chicago, with my friends. It's quite a spectacular spot. You can look north to the city, and Navy Pier - with water sloshing in between. It was July or August, and David and Maria were moving back to New York. We were all very sad ... I love these pictures because it really evokes that weird in-between time: when they were still there, with us, but time was running out ...

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Scanning Tuesday

Here I am in 5th grade (I believe) making challah bread (I still remember that day vividly for some reason) ... I am standing next to one of my friends through childhood, but I eventually had to dump her because she was so bossy that she would make her friends TIE HER SHOELACES. She was a mini despot. We were all afraid of her. I remember one day I was walking through our neighborhood with her and my REAL best friend J., and the girl stopped, with the weary air of a monarch, put her foot out, and said, "My shoelace is untied. J., could you tie it for me?" And J. suddenly found her inner strength, her soul, her spirit ... her SPIRIT WAS FREE ... and she said, quivering with fear, "No."

Our whole world collapsed. Or, no, OUR world didn't collapse. But it collapsed for shoelace-girl's in that moment. She blinked once or twice, staring at J., and said, ominously, "What?"

J., standing tall now, on FIRE with her own courage, said, "I don't want to tie your shoelaces. I won't tie your shoelaces again."

I wanted to cheer.

My memory of that moment ends there ... I don't know if J. and I ran off to her house, screaming in excitement, or if we had a big fight with shoelace-girl ... but I do know that things were never the same with that shoelace-girl again. She had lost her power source. The spell was broken.

But that's a side note. Here we are making bread. I do like the glimpses of our faces here, we are concentrating so hard - so in the moment!

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Scanning Tuesday

Guys? I have to say just one thing.

THOSE AREN'T YOUR BIKES.



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January 26, 2009

Scanning Monday

When Mitchell first moved to Chicago, he lived with me, in my rickety one-room studio on Melrose Street. I had a SINGLE BED which was a mattress on the floor. We slept in the same bed all that time. Mitchell, how on earth ...???? We are good friends, that's all.

And of course, there was the Sammy factor. Mitchell is not really a cat person, but that didn't matter to Sammy. Not one bit.

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Scanning photo

This photo from over 20 years ago captures my friendship with David then. And it also captures my friendship with David now.

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Scanning Monday

When I lived in Chicago, my cat was Sammy, the aforementioned best cat in the world. At some point, when I lived with Mitchell and Ken - we got another cat - a small demon kitten named Duffy, who was TRULY satanic. You were NEVER safe in that house as long as Duffy was there. He would leap out from corners, from the tops of doors - ambushing you, pouncing, he was faster than the wind, and he wanted nothing more than to claw your head to bloody bits.

Sammy, as you can imagine, was NOT happy about this evil interloper and watching their interactions were so hilarious. Sammy was a grown cat, about 8 or 9 years old by this point, so he would stroll past Duffy and casually just bat him across the face, on his way somewhere else. But Duffy couldn't let it go. Duffy wanted to be friends, foes, mortal enemies, whatever ... he just wanted CONTACT.

Here is a photo I took of Duffy.

He looks so cute, right?

Do not be fooled. His cuteness was merely a camouflage for his bloodthirsty warrior-like nature.

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Scanning monday

I've probably put this one up before because it makes me laugh. Seesawing - as an adult - with the boy you are dating - but most important: seesawing with a total lack of irony.

Michael is one of the many friends who has helped keep me sane this past couple of months.

In this photo, we have known each other for all of four weeks. We began dating almost immediately upon meeting one another, skipping all of the preliminary steps - because seriously, why bother - and at the time that this photo was taken we had settled into the rhythm of an old married couple. He even said to me, around this time, "I think we're in a rut. We need to shake things up." A rut. After four weeks. It made no sense, but whatever, he's still in my life today. Not too shabby, not too shabby. Important to see the gift in such things.

Good friend.

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Photo from Meredith

My group of friends in high school loved fondue - when we would go to New York on our yearly drama club trip, we always went to this fondue joint (is it still there??) before going to see whatever Broadway show was on the bill. We have continued our "fondue party" tradition - as a matter of fact, I think we had fondue at Beth's last year, am I right?

But here is a photo of my friend Betsy and myself ... and I hope to GOD it is a birthday party as well, because otherwise our hats make no sense ... and I am trying to figure out our ages here. Sixteen?

I realize I am holding a regular old fork but I think I saw a fondue pot in one of the other photos.

It is so funny and interesting (and mortifying) to see the photos that other people have in their old photo albums. I know the ones I have by heart ... but I honestly don't believe I've ever seen this photo.

I also honestly don't believe my cheeks could possibly get any redder without me having a stroke.

I love you, Betsy! I love all you wonderful women - and let's get together for fondue real soon.

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January 23, 2009

Scanning Friday

Pat, under the mythical Bridge to Nowhere, in Milwaukee.

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January 22, 2009

Scanning Thursday

Ann Marie, once again, this is for you.


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I can't believe I'm posting a picture of a soda machine on my blog, but I honestly can't think of a better use of my time at this moment.

Look at the LINE of sodas along the top of the cigarette machine. You can see my reflection there - and I believe that the BLUR beside me is you, feverishly taking all the free sodas.

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Scanning Thursday

I know I've posted this before, but I love it.

Michael and I and two friends went on a crazy jaunt through the wine country of upper-state New York. Michael was not then and is not now a big drinker. So three sips of wine made him go a little bit insane. It was the equivalent of an entire bottle to someone else.

It was coming up to Halloween time which is Michael's favorite holiday. In one of the big wineries, we were wandering around the huge drafty barn, filled with wine, and quiet nicely dressed people sipping the goods and making comments about the "smoky aftertaste" and the "woodsy fruitiness" or whatever ... Meanwhile, Michael had discovered that a ghost was hanging from the ceiling, as decoration. And when you pulled on the ghost it made this horribly loud moaning "WOO-OOO-OOOO-OOOO" sound, that slowly trailed off into silence. Once Michael pulled the thing once, he could not stop pulling it. The people who were there to, you know, taste the wine, kept glancing over annoyed, but Michael could not stop pulling on the ghost, which kept shrieking and moaning repeatedly. I felt like I was the moron who had taken my mildly retarded or vaguely autistic brother on a field trip to an inappropriate location. I was in tears of laughter. In the middle of one of the ghost's many many MANY screams, Michael turned and yelled over his shoulder in the general direction of the wine-counter, "HOW MUCH FOR THE GHOST?"

I am laughing out loud as I type this. He is surrounded by hundreds of dollars of fine wine and he is asking "HOW MUCH FOR THE GHOST?"


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Scanning Thursday

This is from an infamous Halloween party where all the guests had to dress up as actually dead people. No people who were alive, no abstract concepts or objects or animals or Buzz Lightyear-esque costumes ... we had to be the walking dead.

And so here is a lovely shot from the party of Jesus Christ chatting amicably with a zombie, as Indira Gandhi looks on in the background.

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Scanning Thursday

Graduating from grad school - my roommate and dear friend Jen and myself, in our kitchen. My dad took this photo. Or no ... my mother did. I think that's my dad over to the right.

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Scanning Thursday

I have stacks of photo-booth pictures. Nothing like a good old-fashioned photo booth. Mitchell and I obviously have never seen a photo booth we could say No to ... and we make it a game, calling out emotional directions before each flash. "RAGE!" "DOMESTIC ANGST!" "SEXUAL HIJINX!" It's also fun if you happen to have four people to make it so that each person gets one picture, which involves leaping into the booth, posing, leaping out, so you can make way for the next person.

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Mitchell, me, Sandi


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Me, Mitchell


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Ann Marie, Pat, Me


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Bren


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Bren, Jackie, Me, Mitchell


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I can't remember this boy's name but I hung out with him a couple of times with Mitchell and he was so sweet and funny - This picture makes him look terrifying, but he was a pussycat


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Me, Mitchell - I have no idea what we are acting out, but it is clear that we are acting out SOMETHING


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Kenny, Phil, Me, Ann Marie


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Mitchell, Me


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Jim, jet-lagged and shell-shocked


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Me, Dolores, Mere and Jayne


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Me and Jackie in front - David and Maria hidden in back - this was from one of our many trips to Six Flags


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Me and Mitchell


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Me


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Mitchell


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Me, Michael, Laurie


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Me, Jackie


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Kenny, Phil, Me, Ann Marie


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Mitchell, Me

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January 21, 2009

Scanning Wednesday

Ann Marie, here is, without a doubt, one of the craziest pictures I have ever taken.

You, also, are insane ... because you ironed those T-shirts.

And for some reason we have upended the table and put it on the bed. I imagine so we could run through the "Rich, Young, Pretty & Tan" jitterbug with the boys in the motel room. Where Phil would remind us repeatedly to "do the jazz hands" in between bouts of "bag stress".

Like I said. I love this photo because insanity just FLICKERS off the edge of it.

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Scanning Wednesday

I got Sammy from the pound in Chicago in 1992 and he died in 2003. We were BUDS, man. I still miss him. We moved all over the place together. He lived in three apartments with me in Chicago, and then when I picked up and moved to New York, he traveled - via car - with me (an experience in and of itself, we stayed in a motel together somewhere in the wilds of Pennsylvania) - and then lived in about 5 or 6 apartments with me in New York and Hoboken.

He was truly unique - almost like a mentally disturbed DOG rather than a cat. He had a worried look in his eyes at all times, bless his heart. At any moment, I was about to disappear. He would follow me around. I got to know him and his personality intimately. I could predict his moves.

Sammy adored draping himself around my neck as though he was a fur stole ... and would stay up there as I did chores. I would vacuum my living room, with Sammy draped around my neck.

Sammy never got into playing. I think it meant too much separation from me. I would toss a bizzy ball off into the distance and he would stare up at me worried, like, "Do you want me to go that far away from you?? Just to retrieve a bizzy ball? Are you out of your mind?? I want to stay RIGHT HERE draped around your neck, thankyouverymuch."

Sammy would sleep on my head. He could never ever get close enough. I would wake up in the dark of night and Sammy would be staring straight at me, eyes glimmering through the black. He only slept when he knew I was WATCHING. Because that made him feel safe. I have no idea. All I know is, whenever I opened my eyes from sleep, Sammy was right there, staring at me. I wished he could have learned to chillax but by the time I got him it was too late. Best I could do would be to give him as much love as possible so that maybe - maybe - he would learn to trust again.

Sammy was not a lick-er, as Hope is, Hope loves to groom me. Sammy might have licked my hand once or twice - but that was only out of a sense of obligation and vague worry. He felt he had to, so that I wouldn't disappear into the swirling eternal ether forever ... not because he wanted to.

Sammy would howl with despair when I would leave the apartment. I would walk down the stairs to leave, and hear him yowling as I left. It was awful.

In my last apartment in Chicago, on Wayne Street, Sammy figured out a way to squeeze out of one of the windows - the screen was loose. So I would leave for work or rehearsal and Sammy would be sitting in the window, yowling at me, and I'd come home, hours later, and he would come bounding to greet me across the yards of the neighbors. He had lived the life of a free and wild animal for the whole day and now, purring so loudly it was almost embarrassing, he was ready to come inside and sit on my head.

I used to trip over Sammy all the time, because he would place himself right under my feet. He'd squeal and I'd be like, "Dude, that's what happens when you place yourself directly under my torso. Will you never learn??"

Sammy will always have the softest of spots in my heart, because of who he was, and how much time we had together. I often refer to him as the "best cat in the world". I love Hope, but I still feel that way about Sammy. There are certain animals you just click with ... and Sammy was one-of-a-kind. (I love you, Hope!)

Here are some shots of Sammy and me, and Sammy alone. The one of him sitting on the mattress is hysterical to me, because that was in Chicago, and I was packing up my room to move to New York. I had dismantled the bed and Sammy - who, naturally, hovered amongst the whole proceedings, getting in the way - it all made him SO NERVOUS - had to then perch on top of the mattress, staring around him. Let me anthropomorphize, just because it pisses some people off and I adore pissing those off who get angry about stupid things. It seems like he is thinking, "I have no idea what is going on here, and why this thing is out in the hall, and I am afraid that it all might mean change for ME, so as long as I sit DIRECTLY ON THIS THING, my entire world will not collapse." He looks vaguely anxious to me, and it's still just so cute to me. His eyes are HUGE, like, "Now ... what??? WHAT is happening here???"


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January 20, 2009

Scanning Tuesday

In high school we had a hugely anticipated day called Character Day, where you can dress up as anyone you like, fictional, non-fictional, whatevs. We would plan for it for weeks.

I just came across this photo of (to my mind) two of the coolest guys in our school who also happened to be best friends. Their names are Matt and Trav - Matt was this hot really talented dude who already seemed like a grown man - even though he is, what, 17 years old here?, who was already making feature-length films at this point - he was kind of a phenom - and here, you can see that Raiders mania has swept the nation ... Trav eventually became my first real boyfriend (not to mention, many years later, a successful author) ... he introduced me to the Marx Brothers, to Mae West, to early Cary Grant ... but here ... well, obviously, he is not up for teenage romance.

Him being Gandhi and all.

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January 19, 2009

Scanning Monday

One hot weekend in July, many years ago, I traveled with a group of friends into the wilds of Wisconsin - to stay at "Kenny's farm" - which was basically a house and a farm that was in his family. About 15 of us convened ... tents were erected in the yard, we crashed all over the house, and it was one of those weekends that none of us will ever forget. I only knew three of the guys there - everyone else was new to me - but we all just clicked as a group. Many of us were actors, of course, but there were plenty who were not - but everyone shared a sense of whimsy and fun that made the entire weekend a nonstop laugh-riot. Not to mention the fact that while driving a bunch of drunken yahoos (ie. my dear friends) into the town in search of food (I was designated driver, since I wasn't drinking that weekend) I was pulled over by a cop for going 55 in a 25 mile-an-hour zone - which wouldn't have been that big a deal but the fact that I had five wasted men, all of whom HAD BEERS IN THEIR HANDS, in the car made it a very big deal indeed. The cop gave us a hard time (naturally), but it was all softened since Kenny grew up in the town, and knew the cop, and the cop knew his Aunt Sally, or whatever. But still, they made me drive to the station where I had to take a breathalizer test. It was so funny because we had been DESPERATE for food, having eaten all the food in the house - and the cops in the station treated our predicament with some bemusement, giving us suggestions on good places to eat (as I blew into the breathalizer machine). "Have you tried the bowling alley? They have great burgers." "There's a fireman's picnic down the road aways ... might find some food there." My friends Phil and Kenny stood on either side of me, rubbing my back soothingly as I nervously blew into the breathalyzer - I hadn't had alcohol in weeks, but I do have a guilty conscience so I was sure that SOME of that would show up in my results ... There they were, actually wasted, rubbing my back, saying, "You're doing so good, Sheila ..." Anyway, the whole thing ended up being fine - I got a speeding ticket, that's all - and then we went to meet up with the rest of our friends, who were at the bowling alley, eating.

But the photos below are not of that experience. They are of something else.

Kenny's family has a yearly ritual, whenever they go to that farm. They buy a rocket - one that you can launch - they go to the dollar store and buy paints and brushes - they spend a leisurely day painting the rocket together - and then, at sunset, they all put on funny hats (there was a box of them in the closet) - and walk down the dirt road to the nearest field to launch the rocket off. Then they wander through the field looking for it.

There we all were, strangers to one another, strangers to Kenny's family, but we fully embraced his family ritual. We were all kids in our mid-20s, but we spent hours huddled over that rocket, detailing it, painting slogans on it ... and then, at happy hour time, someone made a vat of cocktails, we all got drinks (mine was virgin!), we all put on funny hats and we trooped down the road to launch our rocket off.

I don't know why that night stays so vivid in my memory. I wonder if it is because I took so many pictures of it. Memory is a funny thing that way. But the night was beautiful, real country - with crickets screaming and the scent of hay and cut grass in the air ... the company was good, the mood rather hilarious and ribald ... I had a huge girl-crush on one of the girls, take a wild guess which one, and I have to say I still really like the pictures I took. They seem to capture the feel of the weekend, not just the look of it, or the main characters.

Here I will take you, via photo, through the entire rocket-launch process.

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Scanning Monday: "Give names. Check in."

Ann Marie will immediately remember this, since we laughed about it.


We were going to be performing at Milwaukee Summer Fest with Pat McCurdy, a local star. He put us up (and our two other friends who would also be performing), in a motel in Milwaukee. He also gave me the following sheet of paper with directions on it. Why I still have this I will leave you to guess.

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So it's pretty standard, right - but what made Ann and I laugh so hard is that he included "Give names, check in" in the directions. As though we would have reached the motel, and been totally BAFFLED as to what to do next, since HE HADN'T TOLD US TO GIVE NAMES, CHECK IN ... We were laughing about the four of us standing in the lobby, wandering around like lost lambs, calling him in desperation because we weren't sure of our instructions at that point.

We busted him mercilessly about this.

"So, I'm not sure ... when we arrive, what's the protocol ... should we 'give names, check in' or would that be totally inappropriate?"

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Scanning Monday

A day at the beach many moons ago. I am posting this because it makes me laugh. My friend Beth, in the glorious hot-pink bathing suit, is holding her daughter Ceileigh, and the next week after this photo was taken she gave birth to her son Conor. She just reminded me that there were some nice waves that day and we were body surfing, and the poor lifeguard was freaking out because of how hugely pregnant she was. But Beth was bobbing and rolling in the water in her hot-pink pregnant glory. And the son she eventually gave birth to is now a toweringly tall teenager who has a penchant for Queen and all things classic rock.

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January 18, 2009

Scanning Sunday

I love this photo: Jackie sitting on the wall near the Chicago Aquarium. Lake Michigan coming right up to the edge ... and the skyline and Navy Pier is across the way. Beautiful day.

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Scanning Sunday

I love this picture of Michael, standing on the seesaw. Captures his personality.

Speaking of Michael, big news ... Things start moving fast when you're on the "black list". Hotshot. Punk.

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January 17, 2009

Scanning Saturday

Many years ago now, when I was living in Chicago, my core group of friends (we had all been friends since college, and all ended up in Chicago) went to go see James Taylor. It was a hot beautiful summer night. We took no less than 40 pictures of each other in the parking lot - with all of our cameras. It was a paparazzi frenzy.

In retrospect, it is funny and odd that we would have suddenly took pictures of ourselves, in every grouping possible, because our time together in Chicago would soon be coming to an end. Although we didn't know that yet.

David and Maria, married for almost two years at this point, would be gone to New York in two months. But they didn't know that at the time the pictures were taken. They also didn't know that in over a year's time they would have their first child, and then, a second one a couple of years later. The oldest is in middle school now. Unimaginable at the time.

Everything was about to change.

I was about to get my heart broken in the biggest way possible. At the time the photos were taken, there was still some hope. In just a month, I would be devastated, bereft, and then, willy-nilly, get cast in a show that would take me to Ithaca immediately - where I met and dated Michael. I can't believe now that there is a time when I did not know him. But at the time, I was all caught up in this other man (Michael referred to him contemptuously as "The Baby Boomer" and a couple years ago when Michael stayed with me, he said, "So ... what, is the Baby Boomer, like, 80 now?" Still contemptuous! I love continuity!), he was my entire WORLD. Life became a howling wilderness when he left, and in some ways, I never really got over it. You find ways to compensate, and I did, but it was devastating. In some people's stories, the narrative goes: "After losing this man and losing her mind ... she found the right man and they've been together for 15 years." That did not happen for me, so I found ways to adjust. I also would be gone in a year's time - moved to New York - but I had no inkling of that at the time the photos were taken. Chicago was my whole life. My home.

Jackie was single and dating, not happy with any of them, not really. In less than a year's time, she would meet (or re-meet, since she had known him for a couple of years) her now-husband, a wonderful warm man who loves her to death. They now have two awesome children, and Jackie has made a beautiful life for herself. But at the time these photos were taken, of course, none of that could be seen. It couldn't even be imagined. If you had said to her in that parking lot of the James Taylor concert, "Jackie, someday you will marry Stuart - you know Stuart, right?" she would have been like: WHAT???? Amazing how life works out.

Mitchell, the last of us to arrive in Chicago, is the only one of our core group who is still there. He was abandoned by all of us, and I am not sure he really forgives us, to this day. He was struggling to make an acting career at the time, doing good work, but it was job to job. He now is a known actor in Chicago, with a following. He does regular gigs - circuses, one-man shows, movies and straight plays ... and it's a wonderful career. At the time, that could not be seen. It was the "substance of things hoped for" and it has now come to pass.

But still - there the five of us are ... on the brink of major change ... unseeing, unknowing ... but still vibrantly in the moment.

I think somehow we all sensed it. I don't know how we sensed it, but there is the fact of the spontaneous photo shoot in the parking lot. And also how beautiful the photos came out, and how they really seem to capture our vibe together as friends. Something was in the air that day.

An inkling of the future, perhaps. Just a glimpse. Maybe we all saw it, sensed it, and that is why we raced around, posing, laughing, snapping ...

This time will pass. Don't forget to enjoy it. And always remember.

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January 16, 2009

Scanning Friday

Member Jen and Katy, my childhood BFFs?

Here are some shots of them (and also Jennifer, Katy's little sister - a kindred spirit of my sister Jean - and also Jen, pulling Jean around on a sled) during the blizzard of '78 which basically shut down Rhode Island for over a week. We were out of school for a week solid. The snow was above the sills of our windows. It was Little House in the Prairie, bigtime. Nightmare for the parents, I'm sure, having all these ankle-biters running around ... but a BLAST for us.

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Scanning Friday

I post this for Mark.

I post this for Ann Marie.

They will understand.


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For those of you unfortunately not in the know, all I can say is that this is "Guy With Monkey In His Mouth".

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Scanning Friday

I think it's about time that I come to terms with the fact that Mitchell is actually ...


.... the Unabomber.

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Scanning Friday

Another violent series of images Betsy and I did for our after-school photography class.

And once again, I am cast as the attacker, Betsy as the victim. How did we work that out?

Again, I know these are silly, and we were 11 years old, but I really like these pictures. I think the closeup of Betsy's face looks like one of Tenniel's drawings of Alice.

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Scanning Friday

Me and my two best buds in grad school. We're at an end-of-year party in a huge warehouse loft. I had recently shaved my head for various and sundry reasons. Believe it or not, it was my favorite haircut ever.

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January 15, 2009

Scanning Thursday

Sheila, I have one wee request,mkay.

BACK THE EFF UP.

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Scanning Thursday

Mitchell at Jackie and Stuart's rehearsal dinner.

Warning: What you are about to see may be shocking.

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January 14, 2009

Scanning Wednesday

I'm not sure if you can tell from these photos, the subtext might be way too subtle and nuanced for an outsider to pick up on, but David and Mitchell are best friends.

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January 13, 2009

Scanning Tuesday

I know it's blurry, and I know it's a cut-out - because I used to like to do that to my photos, Lord knows why ... but I just love the moment that is captured here.

Mitchell and me - in my parents' backyard. My parents threw me a graduation party, and we played volleyball, and it was a wonderful time.

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Scanning Tuesday

In general, I am not friends with people who aren't funny. That's just the way it is, or the way it has naturally turned out. It's not that I consciously exclude people - or have a checklist of what I think is funny and so-and-so should line up ... nothing like that ... It's really just a natural process. Funny people (and it's a certain brand of funny) are drawn to each other. You recognize each other. You laugh at the same stupid things. You find that in clusters of friends. I've hung out with groups of friends who aren't funny. They may be polite, or warm, or kind ... but not really funny.

Like tends to cluster towards like ...

All of this is to say is that my roommate for my sophomore year in college was someone I had actually gone to high school with, but didn't really know all that well - and as a matter of fact, she intimidated me because she was stunningly gorgeous, had a serious boyfriend, and had a naturally beautiful and awesome singing voice that other people spend years studying to try to achieve. She could be intimidating. She could get very serious and quiet, and you would wonder what was going on behind that beautiful mask.

But we were both in the theatre department at the same college, and without even really knowing each other TOO well, we said, sure, let's be roommates.

On the very first day of school, as we were bustling around our new room, getting our backpacks together, it somehow came out that her eyesight was so bad that she used this huge clear magnifying sheet to read books - she would place it over the page, and suddenly it would be like a large-print book and she could make it through. I had never known that about her.

Did we sit and have a deep conversation about our poor eyesight?

No.

Did we commisserate about how hard it is to see the blackboard?

No.

Did we swap glasses to see each other's vision and then discuss the pros and cons of various contact lenses, like good upstanding on-the-verge-of-being-adult people?

No.

Instead, here is what we did. For about 20 minutes.


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That's what I mean. Goofy juvenile stupid humor. Not everyone has it, you know.

And that's when I knew we would be good roommates and friends.

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Scanning Tuesday

This is how I REALLY felt the day of my prom when my date wouldn't come pick me up and have his picture taken. It's so sad now when I think of it (and is a harbinger of things to come) - that I had to stand by myself in the living room getting my picture taken in my prom dress. That sucks, man.

Of course then my two friends came over and posed with me (picture below somewhere) - but before that I was by myself.

Here is the attitude my parents were faced with when they tried to take my picture.

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Scanning Tuesday

As much as it pains me, I am going to post the following photo without explaining what the hell is going on.

Betsy, please forgive me.

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Scanning Tuesday

From the age of about 7 to 11, my best friends were Jen and Katy. We had many adventures. We called ourselves The Three Muskateers. We pretended we were witches. We had witch names. We had more fun than should be legal. The kind of fun where it's a summer dusk and it's time to go in to supper, and our mothers are calling us in (we lived on the same block in the same neighborhood), and we were all literally FRANTIC to not go inside! It seemed literally impossible to stop our games!

I just saw both of them last week. Well, I saw everyone last week. I love them still. We are not in touch, not in an everyday way, but that bond is there. Great women, both of them.

Here the three of us are, at the busstop, on two different first days of school - I am guessing 5th and 6th grade (for me, I mean. The three of us were staggered in age, I was the oldest.)

It's rare that a TRIO of girls will work so well. Usually there's some backstabbing going on. Not with us. We were inseparable.

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Scanning Tuesday

I have a friend Cristina who designs hats. In Chicago, she had a sweet little studio, which was like going into Santa's workshop or something. We loved to hang out there and try on her creations. One hot summer day, there was a street fair in Chicago (like there is every other day in Chicago in the summer) - and Cristina, who was trying to launch her business, asked me, Mitchell and Jackie to walk around the street fair with her - each of us wearing one of her hats, so we could pass out fliers and basically be walking billboards.

We had a blast. I do remember that we got some scornful comments from idiots who never went past high school emotionally. One girl sneered as we walked by, "Oh. So I guess they're wearing hats today." I don't understand why four people wearing hats would be so disturbing and threatening.

The funniest part, though, was that my friend Cristina - who said, about herself, "I wake up every morning eager to hyperbolize" - characterized our experience at the street fair as "the day we were almost killed".

hahahahaha

Anyway, here are some shots from that day.

Here is Cristina, in her studio.

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Me trying on a hat

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Mitchell, Cristina, Jackie

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Jackie, Cristina, Mitchell

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Mitchell

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Cristina in her magical studio

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Jackie, trying on a hat

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Scanning Tuesday

Betsy won tickets and a limo ride to an Elton John concert off some radio contest. We were sophomores in college. Betsy's father was (is) a priest (in fact, he just married my sister Jean and her now-husband Pat) - and his house and church were on the campus where I went to college. So I walked over there that night, and there was a huge limo waiting for us. A limo parked in front of the church, waiting for the pastor's daughter and her friend.

We had so much fun.

Best of all was that we ran into Mitchell at the Civic Center, and we weren't really friends yet, although we knew OF each other ... and we were so excited to run into each other that I count that moment as really the first moment when I knew we would be friends. Well, that and us laughing at how bad we were at juggling.

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Scanning Tuesday

There are a couple of facts you should know to put the following 3 photos in context.

1. In Rhode Island, there was an amusement park called Rocky Point. The rides were rusty and dangerous. The people who ran the rides appeared to be alcoholic halfwits. The entire place was falling apart, a real old-time carnival, and it was a BLAST.

2. One summer day, Mitchell, his sister Sandi, and I went to Rocky Point.

3. There was a ride called The Flume - like a roller coaster which ended with you splashing in the water. We rode it multiple times.

4. Earlier that summer, Mitchell had been cast as one of the show people at Rocky Point. He was going to be "Doc Abbott" - a comedian who stood on his own little stage and did horrible jokes along the lines of, "Oh, just for the halibut" and then pulling out a huge fish. Mitchell was mortified. And also rather frightened. Because the Doc Abbott stage was by itself, out in the middle of nowhere, and the possibility of being run out of Rocky Point by a bunch of heckling drunk halfwits was huge. But the final straw that broke the camel's back was the day at rehearsal when a Rhode Island girl, hired as a dancer, got pissed off because she was being made to do comedic bits and skits. She turned to Mitchell and said, in the thickest Rhode Island accent on the planet, "Allz I wanna do is dyance." Mitchell understood her concerns, but in that moment he had had it. He heard what she had to say, and then strolled up to the director, informed the director he had quit, and walked out of the rehearsal hall. "Allz I wanna do is dyance" is still a refrain amongst my group of friends.

5. Naturally, we had to go find Doc Abbott's stage. Still soaking wet from our Flume rides, we took three photos, one of each of us, "performing" on the stage.

6. I find Mitchell's photo to be truly demonic. He looks like a gleeful dictator.

7. Sandi is, to put it mildly, a fashion guru. Even when she was 16, she would wear gold lame pant suits and stilettoes and still somehow pull it off. She is cutting edge, glamorous, fabulous, and always looks put together. So that is why it is truly confusing to see her here, wearing short white shorts, and white flats. Mitchell and I do not understand what happened.

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January 12, 2009

Scanning Monday

One sunny day, we convened at my friend Luisa's house. Luisa makes jewelry, and she brought out all of these new beads she had been working with. We sat in the sun on her porch, drinking iced coffee, and looking through these incredible beads.

Jackie ended up becoming a woman we now refer to as "The Bead Lady".

Bead Lady was very obnoxious and she knew everything there was to know about beads and would pontificate endlessly.

Jackie would reach into the bag, pick a random bead, glance at it, and pronounce, "This bead hails from MesopoTAMia ..."

Just making shit up.

And the accent is hard to describe. Her voice was rather adenoidal and snotty (emotionally and literally), and she was truly insufferable. We all love the Bead Lady to this day.

Jackie pulled out one bead, gave it a deadpan glance, and said flatly, to all of us, "This bead pre-dates Christ."

Here is a shot of me and Luisa, laughing. And here is a shot of The Bead Lady in action.


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Scanning Monday

Mitchell has been my date at more weddings than I can count. Here we are, cracking each other up, at Meredith and Jacques' wedding. It was a blizzard that night. The bridesmaids wore black velvet and we had holly in our hair. I love this picture of the two of us.

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Scanning Monday

Member Emily?

My friend Emily who declared, while watching Rudolph, that "Santa is a racist motherfuckah"?

Here are some pictures of her.


Emily dancing with my brother.

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Emily

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Emily and Mitchell dancing and gossiping

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Scanning Monday

Meredith hosted a New Year's Eve party when she was living in Lowell - and wonder of wonders - most of the core group could make it, even though we had scattered - either going to college, or working, whatever: Betsy, Me, Beth, and Kate. Michele was not there but she was the only one missing. High school was over, and adulthood was just starting. It was a magical party for some reason - we all remember it.

At one point someone put on Devo's "Jerkin' Back and Forth" - a favorite of ours when we were in high school. We all went NUTS and someone (Tom??) had the foresight to take a series of photos.

I love how we are all so into it, so into each other - and yes, we are in that moment living in the past, yet we're not holding onto the past - we're celebrating it ... I just love this series of pictures. We are all still dear friends, that's the best part.

I also enjoy the one photo where everyone is clearly "jerkin' up high" and I made a mistake, and proceeded to "jerk down low".

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January 11, 2009

Scanning Sunday

Two of my friends in college were bridesmaids in a wedding and were forced to wear puffy royal blue gowns ... and of course the bride said, "You'll wear them again - maybe to a New Year's Eve party!" What kind of person would wear a puffy royal blue gown to New Year's Eve? Maybe Fergie would ... but just a regular Rhode Island girl? She'll spritz her bangs and put on a little black dress with shiny black heels.

Anyway, the dresses were infamous and Jackie, who was one of the unfortunate bridesmaids, would sometimes put the dress on and come down the stairs, singing "Hit the Road, Jack" as though she were a pathetic lounge singer. We'd all be hanging out downstairs, Jackie would be dressed like a normal person, then she would disappear ... and before we realized she was gone, back she would come, singing some cheeseball song, wearing her royal blue bridesmaid gown.

So that Halloween there was a huge bash at an infamous house in Eastward Look (down by Scarborough Beach). Jackie and I decided to go as the Sweeney Sisters (who were huge at the time). We both wore the royal blue bridesmaid gowns and false eyelashes. As much as we could, we tried to stay in character. We burst into the party singing "Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley" and just took it from there.

At the end of the night, the entire party went down the end of the road to the beach and stood on the sand, shivering, holding beers, and singing and laughing. Jackie and I were still in our gowns. We must have looked insane. But it was Halloween we could get away with it.

Jim Simon posted a picture of us as the Sweeney Sisters on Facebook. I was so happy to see it again. Lunacy.

Jackie said, upon seeing the photo again, "I look like the secretary at the Woonsocket DMV" - which, I suppose, is truly LOCAL humor - and all of us Rhode Islanders have been laughing all day about it. There is no Woonsocket DMV, but that doesn't matter. It's the ENERGY she's talking about ... and she is right ON. She looks like the secretary at the Woonsocket DMV.

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Scanning Sunday

The levels of weird in the following photo cannot be made clear without me talking nonstop for 2.3 hours on an almost cellular level about quantum physics, beach glass, pita bread, and artificial fruit.

I'll just say that this is me backstage at the Milwaukee Summer Fest in our dressing room.

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Scanning Sunday

Sandi and me waiting for the Clark Street bus in Chicago.

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Scanning Sunday

Singing with Pat McCurdy at Lounge Ax in Chicago.

There's a long weird story behind this photo, and it involves Michael, Bay Watch, menstruation, black panties, ice cream, and a drowned dwarf.

Seems like rather a benign photo, right, but every time I look at it all I can see is a dwarf floating to the bottom of the ocean.


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Scanning Sunday

In 6th grade, Betsy and I signed up for an after-school class in photography. One of our assignments was to take pictures of the same scene from multiple angles. I have no idea who the photographer was here (although I think I can guess) and it's weird - this is all rather silly but I still like these photos a lot.

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Scanning Sunday

My senior prom date was 22 years old. He refused to come to the house for the picture-taking ritual beforehand. When I think about that now, I still feel that rejection. And shame, too. Because he had shamed me for even asking. We had been dating, off and on, for months. It's not like we were strangers. But he was like, "No, no, I'm not going to do that whole picture thing. Nope."

I should have said, "You know what? Fuck you. I'll go to my prom by myself, you fucking douchebag."

It was pouring rain that day and my eyes had had a bad reaction to new saline solution for my lenses - so I had to wear my glasses to the prom, which seemed like the ultimate tragedy at the time. The fact that my prom date refused to actually, you know, act like a prom date - paled in comparison to having to wear glasses.

But then - like an angel of mercy - two of my friends (who were in college) called. They were living my prom vicariously. They were so excited for me. They didn't care that I had to wear glasses. They knew my prom date wasn't going to come over - so what did they do? They jumped in their car and raced over to my house, so that I could have pictures taken in the living with THEM. Not with my date. They were like, Fuck HIM.

Look at how Liz is holding onto my white-gloved hand, as though it is a posed prom picture. She was 21 years old, 22, and so into the fact that her young friend was having this experience.

She's good people.

And Joe! Look at my friend Joe, standing there, beaming.

I am still amazed by their kindness and sweetness on that day.

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Scanning Sunday

My college graduation.

David, Nancy, Me.

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Scanning Sunday

One year, Jackie hosted Thanksgiving at her basement apartment (with rubber floors) and everyone who couldn't get home to family that year convened. It was a great night. Mitchell cooked the turkey - his first - and although it was placed in the pan upside down it was dee-lish. We had new friends and old - worlds colliding - Tigh and Hubbell were there (I wrote about them here), the aforementioned Ken was there ... Ted was there ... Bobby ... many of them did not know one another, so it was a great night. Watching Tigh shriek at Bobby about why the downfall of the studio system wrecked Hollywood forever is an image I will not forget. Jackie was in training to be an EMT at that point, so she went around the table as we ate and took our blood pressure, for practice.

Ken and Jackie started dancing in the kitchen area, and things got a little bit out of control. As you will see. The whole series ends with one of my favorite pictures of all time.

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Scanning Sunday

Jackie applying lipstick. I love this picture.

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Scanning Sunday

Me in Little League. My team was the Newport Creamery sponsored team. My brother is sitting next to me. My heart cracks looking at his face.

I am obviously annoyed (for the first time in my life, perhaps?) that someone is pointing a camera at me.


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Scanning Sunday

I love this picture of Mitchell.

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Scanning Sunday

This was an infamous road trip - we were traveling by car to see our friend Liz in a regional production of Noises Off. We found ourselves in a deserted town, and everyone seemed homeless and frightening, like there might be something in the water. We asked directions from one toothless man, and he had a gun in his hand. We had a blast.

Steven, Brett, Mitchell, Me, and Liz.

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Steven, Mitchell, Tonio (with camera), Me, Brett (in front)

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Scanning Sunday

Me and Ann Marie, on one of the craziest days of our entire friendship. We had bought gowns. We had traveled to Milwaukee and rented a motel room. We brought more hair products than two women should ever need in one sitting. It was so much fun.

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January 10, 2009

Reunion

In 1994, 1995, I lived in Chicago with Mitchell, and our friend Ken. Ken was a great guy who was also in Killer Joe with me, in Ithaca. Just a straight-up wonderful person. Over the years, I lost track of Ken, although I would hear of him through Mitchell and mutual friends - people running into him, he's doing well, he's well-known and well-liked. But I have not seen him or spoke to him since 1995. One of the things that we loved to do as roommates was gather around the TV every night at 11:30 (if I remember correctly) to watch thirtysomething, which Lifetime had purchased and was running in sequence. I taped every one of them (thank God, because the damn series has not been released on DVD, which is insane to me). Ken, who is a big salt-of-the-earth type, who wore backwards baseball caps, made some of the funniest weirdest comments as we watched. He had a whole different outlook. We'd be watching some episode, and he'd make some comment that would have us rolling on the floor with laughter. It was always something like, "You know she has smelly burps." Or "I am betting Ellen has hairy nipples." We'd be like, "WHAT????"

And then I moved to New York and this was before the Internet was in my life, and before Facebook, and I lost touch with a lot of people, Ken included.

Now, though, I am back in touch with him through Facebook. We haven't really spoken, just "friend"-ed each other, and my life has been a whirlwind over the last two months - well, two years, really - but I haven't been in a corresponding mood. No energy to spare. But I always had really fond memories of Ken, so it was nice to see his face again.

And yesterday afternoon, as the snow came down, and I was missing my brother - who had been staying with me - and missing my sisters and my mother and everyone - I sat at my computer and scanned probably 400 photos into my computer. I went into a fugue state. I posted some on Flickr, some on Facebook, I couldn't stop.

Suddenly, a little IM window popped up and it was Ken. No preamble. No "hey how are you?" He had left me a nice note telling me he was thinking of me - but in the IM he dispensed with niceties and got right to the point, picking up where we left off in 1995. I have not spoken to him since 1995. And here is our conversation from yesterday:


4:58 Ken
Why isn't 30something on DVD?
4:58pmSheila
I cant figure it out!!! What the eff???
Is it the music rights or something like that?
Mitchell and I still ROAR about some of your comments about that show. I remember you saying something about Hope along the lines of, "You just know she has pepperoni breath."
4:59pmKen
Frickin crime
4:59pmSheila
Totally!
It needs to come out in a deluxe edition, with special features, and interviews and all that crap.
4:59pmKen
Amen
5:00pmSheila
What was the name of that married douchebag that Ellen was fooling around with? We hated him SO MUCH
5:01pmKen
Have to think
I miss Miles Drentell
5:01pmSheila
JEFFREY
I miss Miles Drentell too. Brilliant.
5:02pmKen
Ugh
5:03pmKen
Ellen was a straight up mess
5:03pmSheila
Totally. I give her and Billy a year, tops.
5:03pmKen
Laughing Hard!!!!
5:04pmSheila
Me too!!!!!
Ahhh, Melissa and Lee. Let's hope they get over their age differences and make a go of it.
5:04pmKen
Poor Ethan....kid had issues
5:05pmSheila
Oh God. That kid should never be allowed near firecrackers and that's all I'm saying.
I feel that Gary was roped into domesticity, that it wasn't really his bag.
5:06pmKen
I agree....wild stallion needs to roam free
5:07pmSheila
Or die in a snowstorm. either one.



It is the small things, like that IM conversation, that keep me grounded, make me remember who I am, and that life is good. I'll keep comments open for now. Not sure.

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January 1, 2009

Thanks

... to Harry, for his energy, support, and for just being there every day.

... to all of my cousins, for keeping in touch through IMs and Facebook, and letting us know we are all cared about

... to Shaka, for taking care of the crick in my neck and my overall body problems, for giving me a space where I can forget for a while

... to Brendan, for your strength, your humor, your sensitivity, your way with Cashel, your way with all of us, and for enriching my life in almost every conversation we have. Oh, and thanks for giving me Valley Girl for Christmas. I watched it last night and it is as fabulous as I remembered.

... to the Chinese man at the gift shop who sells me my rose oil and always greets me with a nice smile and friendly banter ... I look forward to going in there

... to Barry. Just because.

... to Allison, for our friendship that just gets deeper and better with every passing day. I miss you!

... to Bob O'Neill, for caring about the books

... to Mum. I can't even speak.

... to Pat, for making my sister Jean happy

... to Maria, for just being there, for reading my book in one sitting, for comparing it to the Waltons, for bringing Cashel into the world, and for her general energy over Christmas

... to Michael, for being understanding about my freakout of tween proportions over the last week. "Woah, slow down" he wrote. I need understanding. I need safety. Sometimes I freak out. I need someone who can understand, talk me out of the clock tower, tell me to chillax in a loving manner, and not abandon me just because I'm difficult. Thank you.

... to David Maslin for his applesauce

... to Dad. For everything.

... to the Quinns. I have known them my whole life. I love them.

... to Father Creedon. Words cannot express.

... to Kerry, for her humor, her Red Sox Kleenex box, and for taking care of Hope while I am away

... speaking of Hope, thank you Hope for coming into my life

... to Keith at House Next Door, for giving me a space to write giant pieces about my current obsessions - and for also editing me so well to save me from my own excesses.

... to Mitchell. For being my date at Jean and Pat's wedding, for making sure his tie matched my bridesmaid dress, for not letting that bitchy actress appropriate my cousin Kerry's career, for listening, laughing, loving, and for everything else you have given me.

... to Jackie, who for some reason is banned from commenting on my blog, and I can't figure out how to change it. I have felt you out there, dear friend.

... to all the gorgeous women in my Girl Group - I cherish each and every one of you

... to Alex, whose humor, intelligence, anger, creativity, and passion are a constant reminder of how I want to live my life

... to David, for talking, listening, caring, and making me laugh

... to Cashel, for just who you are, my dear nephew - you are such a good person and I am proud to know you.

... to Ben, for coming into Siobhan's life, and for being such a nice person, such a part of our family already. Thanks for the hot dogs!

... to Mickey Rourke, for coming back from obscurity and thrilling me to no end

... to Melody: for how you love my brother, for how you love Cashel, and for how you have been like a third sister these years ... It means so much to me to have you be a part of my life.

... to Pat McCurdy, for your caring funny text messages, and for still, after everything, being there for me

... to Beth, for letting me in on what you are going through right now, and being such a good friend

... to Siobhan, for being a continuous surprise, someone I cherish more and more each day

... to Ann Marie, for the fact that she and I, early in our friendship, realized that we wanted to have a "prom-like experience" again, so we went out and bought, basically GOWNS to drive up to Milwaukee and see a Pat McCurdy show. We showed up in this dingy bar in GOWNS. I am laughing out loud.

... to Joe Hurley, for emerging out of the damn blue in the way you did, remembering me as that girl in the eyepatch from years ago singing "Where is love" on the sidewalk in lower Manhattan, for tracking me down like a bloodhound - that took some doing and I am so impressed with your effort - and also for your amusing emails which really have lightened my days recently. Without even knowing it (and that is the best part of it), you have reminded me of who I am.

... to Ted, for all the wine, the conversation, and our years-long friendship ... I am so grateful for it

... to Betsy, for the Tangy Taffy and for being my best friend before I even knew who I was

... to Mere - first of all for crocheting those mittens last year when I asked you to ... you didn't hesitate, you just STARTED and you created the weird thing that I asked you to - bless you! ... and for being a wonderful friend. Even though you are missing a toe.

... to Beyonce, for her "Single Ladies" song and video. I can't get enough and when I've felt blue and broken, as I often feel, I'll watch it. It works.

... to Barbara, for believing in me

... to the neighbors who came over the morning of the snowstorm and - without being asked - shoveled out our driveway and shoveled out all of our cars

... to Kate, one of my dearest and most treasured friends. I'm sorry I haven't been there for you recently, as you go through all these huge changes! I miss you so much!

... to Michele, for getting so enraged about a recent article in the Pro Jo that she considered calling up the editor to give her own version of events. A sort of Rhode Island expose. Brilliant! Also, for her kind emails and support

... to Patrick Sandora, for making me LAUGH!! You're awesome!

... to Stephenie Meyer, for her Twilight books. They have been such a welcome escape from the intensity of this December, and I have been transported by them. I so needed it.

... to Jean ... for saying the word "Benny's" in almost every conversation, and for just who you are. I'm so proud of you.

... to my new niece/nephew, whoever you will be ... I love you already.

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December 13, 2008

Aero Theatre Mickey Rourke Fest

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The Aero Theatre in Santa Monica (a wonderful place, I saw Papillon there) is now hosting a Mickey Rourke Fest.

Day One was a double feature: Pope of Greenwich Village and 9 1/2 Weeks.

Naturally, Michael was there. I asked him to "report" on it for my blog. He agreed, hot shot though he is. My own Mickey Rourke piece is done (it ran to 9 pages, sorry, editor) and should go up next week.

In the meantime, here are Michael's thoughtful comments.

DAY ONE, by Michael

Day One was great. So amazing to see these films, particularly 9 1/2 WEEKS on the big screen. I never had. He's simply stunning. He never looks like he's making choices, like he's "acting", and yet he's completely unpredictable, funny and transparent while also being mysterious. And beautiful, in a broken way.

I agree that part of his genius, like Brando, was his self-destruction, but it's heartbreaking to see how beautiful he was then, how expressive his face was, how he was capable of playing a wealthy stockbroker, while now he can only play criminals, sleazebags and weirdos.

I'm very interested in seeing THE WRESTLER, seeing some old Mickey in the new visage. Thank you for not saying anything about it.


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December 11, 2008

Promoting my peeps: Michael

Let us turn our minds now to the annual December industry "black list" entitled "10 Best Unproduced Scripts in Hollywood", a list eagerly anticipated by all the power-brokers in Hollywood. The list can be a predictor of future success, sometimes even Oscars, and is usually just a flat-out huge deal for the people "named" on said list.

So on that note: Please go here and go to # 4 on the list.

I wasn't kidding when I said that over the past week my "ex-boyfriends were everywhere". By that I don't mean sending me emails or IMs or calling me in the dead of night, although that has been happening too. No. By that I mean that they are being covered by the national press.

So, onto the business at hand.

First off, Michael, congratulations and all, great news! Yay!

But I guess I'm kind of confused. No, make that, really confused.

I looked at your script synopsis and it all looks really good, and you know my feelings about Kwik Stop, so I'm totally happy for you.

Rah rah, go Michael, all of that.

However, I'm still really confused.

Mainly I am wondering why the script isn't called SHEILA.

Please advise.

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From the cell phone camera: And the Oscar goes to ...

This is our fourth year going to the Oscar party at Dublin 6 in the Village. You fill out forms at the beginning of the night making your predictions ... It's like a sports bar, only for the Oscars. SO MUCH FUN. Allison and I go every year. It is the most obsessive of nights.

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From the cell phone camera: Toilet

Allison and I were walking in her neighborhood, the West Village, on a snowy night and we came across a toilet, just sitting on the sidewalk. We have the same sense of humor. It was just so random, sitting there. Allison, of course, had to pretend to sit on it. "Yeah, I need to pee, I'll just squat here on 11th Street and do my business ..."

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December 9, 2008

It's a theme.

I have recently re-connected with an old boyfriend through Facebook. It's been a lot of fun chatting with him and reminiscing and having Rashomon conversations about our memories. We were catching each other up on our lives. I told him I just finished my first book (YES. I FINISHED IT. IT IS NOW IN MY AGENT'S HANDS. I CAN RELAX FOR, WHAT, TWO SECONDS??? I told her after sending her the manuscript through the mail that I needed to hear when it safely arrived "because I feel right now like I am a parent letting my child take public transportation by themselves for the first time") and he was asking me about it. I told him a little bit about the book.

What was his first comment?

Did he say, "Congratulations on finishing your first book!" ?

No.

Did he say, "I can't wait to buy my own copy!" ?

No.

He said, "Am I in there?"

I am laughing out loud. This has been the general response of the "boys I have known" (at least the ones who know about my book) - I mentioned it in passing here.

Of course Michael is the most obvious example, just because I'm in touch with him on a regular basis and also because he doesn't mind me posting his emails ("I'm a whore" he stated bluntly). Michael is relentless. I love that about him. He's not afraid to be demanding. It's one of our jokes. But it's not just Michael. Another one of the "boys" (now in his 50s, for God's sake), asked me, "So ... will you dedicate the book to me?" I am laughing out loud. The balls! I was like, "Goddammit, NO, I will NOT dedicate the book to you - haven't I given you enough??" He couldn't stop himself. "But ... why not?"

Oh, these men. These men still kill me. If any of them were NOT egotistical about their position in my life I would be bummed out. I really need the comedy of this right now.

I just love that this man I have not been in touch with for years has joined in in the never-ending chorus.

"Will I be in there?"
"Will you call it MICHAEL?"
"Will you dedicate it to me?"
"You need to write a whole book just about your experiences with me. It would be a best-seller." (that one was Michael's.)

I probably should add an essay to the entire mix, explaining this whole ex-boyfriend-as-relentless-and-endearing-egotist theme.

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December 5, 2008

Good friends, memory

For background, please read this. It's short.

My birthday was last week. As a matter of fact it was on Thanksgiving. Not a great birthday. Sad times. I came back from Rhode Island and opened my mailbox. There was a package there, a padded envelope and the return address was Virginia. I had sent an essay to a magazine based in Virginia and I thought for a second that they had sent it back to me. Even though it wasn't in my own SASE. And if I had been thinking clearly, I would have recognized the handwriting. I was confused, whatever. I came into my apartment and opened the envelope. And pulled out a freakin' Tangy Taffy with a post-it note stuck on it from Betsy.

I have been friends with her since we were 10. Our Tangy Taffy joke dates from when we were 10. I started laughing and crying when I saw that damn piece of candy that my thoughtful friend had seen, randomly, and popped it an envelope immediately to me.

Weirdly, though, Bets, there wasn't a bite out of it!

And it's funny: The post below this one has a clip from Oliver in it. I just read that Diary entry above and realized at the end I babble on about Oliver but I didn't originally post the clip for Betsy. I posted it for Joe Hurley, whose birthday was yesterday, who was a "scruffy Irish dude" I met over 6 years ago, who was (IS) obsessed with Oliver and contacted me out of the blue a couple of days ago, inviting me to his show. He played with his band The Gents at Joe's Pub last night (deets here) and included a bunch of songs from Oliver in his set. He is an Oliver fanatic. When I met him, on Bloomsday, we sat with a group of rowdy insane drunk people (I include both of us in that description) around picnic tables outside a bar on Wall Street and sang the ENTIRE SCORE of Oliver together. I did not know who Joe Hurley was, although he had performed that Bloomsday, so I knew he was a singer. But I did not know what a big deal he was. To me, he was this insanely funny person who led us all in song after the celebration ended, and our private celebration went on for HOURS after the Bloomsday revelries stopped. It was all about Oliver. Joe acted as conductor. It was completely impromptu. I remember I started singing "Where Is Love" and he high-fived me. A high-five for "Where is Love"? I adore nerds. He remembered me from that long ago day and since his show was going to be Oliver-focused he became a detective and tracked me down to invite me - that weird girl wearing an eye-patch in honor of Joyce who knew every word to the Oliver soundtrack. Pretty wild, huh? Unfortunately, I could not go to his show. Sad! Anyway, it was his birthday yesterday, so I posted it in honor of him, another obsessive making his way through the world.

But now I realize that I was posting it for my dear friend Betsy too.

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The story continues.

Michael: "So I saw your little post on my ego. How come it was so small?"


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December 4, 2008

I love a man with a healthy ridiculous ego

Me: "So I've written two essays about you that I'm sending around now."
Michael: "Only two? Why not three?"
Me: "We dated for six weeks almost 15 years ago."
Michael: "So?"

****

Michael: "So how's the book coming? You know. The one about ME."
Me: "Great, Michael. It's coming along just great."
Michael: "I hope you're calling it MICHAEL."
Me: "No. I don't believe I am."
Michael: "Why not?"

****

This ongoing exchange is making me laugh. I look forward to the next installment.


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November 23, 2008

Random

This photo makes me insanely happy.

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Michael took that photo. The boy I was making out with on a nightly basis with such feverish passion that we wrecked entire rooms, leaving carnage in our wake. You know, the Mickey Rourke fanatic.

Please note that I have a BURN above my left eyebrow. That's because I curled my hair for the show every night with a hot curling iron and got a bit too overzealous.

I just love how the two of us seem caught, in the middle of something else ... almost like we are already famous and the paparazzi are hounding us. I seem more pissed off about it than he does, frankly. He seems to be taking it in stride.

My teeth seem unusually large to me.


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November 20, 2008

Another frightening thing about Facebook:

... is that same friend also uploads a photo of you and her, backstage, at our college's acclaimed production of Anne of Green Gables. I played Anne Shirley, and she played my arch enemy, Josie Pye.

However, judging from this photo: I am playing a hungover Ma Joad or a stoned-out-of-his mind Yasir Arafat and she is playing a kooky Southern belle getting ready for the spring ball.

We are obviously singing something. And eating candy.

Backstage.

We are ALL ABOUT our hair.


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To explain my get-up: I cannot explain the trench coat, but the scarf on my head is due to pin curls (what Mitchell called "the horror and humiliation of pin curls") because I, as Anne, wore a wig, and needed my hair to be pinned down. I looked ridiculous. The chairman of our theatre department and director of the show glanced at me once during a dress rehearsal, me in my pin curls, and she said, "Sheila, you look like a Roman frieze."

So when I was out in public (and this was, although backstage, public - because we were competing in the ACTF with the show - so it was a MADHOUSE backstage) I would put on that stupid scarf.

But still.

I cannot explain the trench coat. Maybe it was cold?

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One of the most frightening things about Facebook is:

... old friends from college upload photos from way back then showing you, as a youngun, imbibing far too much underage liquor and wearing inappropriate huge watches in a dank basement.


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Despite the OBVIOUS intoxication, and the DESPICABLE hand gestures, I remember that party well. That's me, Mitchell and Mitchell's brother Steven. It was New Year's Eve, we were at my friend Julie's boyfriend's house, and he was playing with his band in the basement all night, and we all hung out down there. And our friend Emily (yes, the "Santa is a racist mothahfuckah" Emily) was cornered in the kitchen by a frightening man who was a BLATANT racist and refused to shake hands with her. It was so obvious and so bizarre. Of course, we were all wasted, but I know a douchebag when I see one!

Speaking of Emily: Mitchell pointed out to me that you can see her hair coming into the photo on the right-hand side. There she is!

Sheila.

Take off the watch.

Also, you are a Virgin of the Highest Order. Why are you posing like Jenna Jameson?

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November 19, 2008

I'm out of my league in the Mickey obsession

From an email from Michael:

here's one of many stories/anecdotes/observations of Mickey:

when i moved to LA for the first time, back in my early twenties, i was renting a piece a shit car from a place called Rent-A-Wreck and i desperately wanted to just BUY my own piece of shit. a friend of a friend of a that kind of thing led me to a purple 50's stunt car from a low-budget movie that the production company was selling for far more than it was worth. but when the woman selling it told me that it was the car Mickey Rourke drove in the movie they just wrapped, i told her i'd buy it, sight unseen. to her credit, she basically told me it was lemon, don't bother, but i said i'd like to take it for a spin. which i did, all by myself, cruising West Hollywood with my mirrored cop glasses on, saying to myself, "i'm sitting in the same place Mickey Rourke sat in, touching the wheel that Mickey touched," soaking in his vibe. later i saw the movie (on video, of course. it was in the mid 90's, his dark days) and it was called FALL TIME. avoid it. it sucks. and Mickey was in his lazy, whispering, touching his lower lip with every line and always wearing sunglasses phase. he needed the paycheck.

have you seen FRANCESCO? Mickey Rourke plays St. Francis of Assisi. yes. you read that right. i don't remember it much but i know Helena Bonham Carter was in it and at one point you can see Mickey's biker tattoo (in the 1200's!).

Ah yes. The 'touching his lower lip on every line' phase. I know it well.

But that's why I love Michael. Because we have that same level of obsessiveness that leads us to things like driving purple stunt cars around wearing cop sunglasses. Or flying to Taos and crashing Dean Stockwell's party. Either one.

Mitchell, I wonder if Helena says "Crockit ... Oim a joooonkie" in that movie?

Sin City tonight.

Also, in other news, slightly braggy: it's kind of awesome when the managing editor of one of the best literary magazines in the country remembers you from when you submitted to them three years ago. Yes, they turned me down, but not after a prolonged and agonizing cut process ... I was getting little slips in the mail every couple of weeks: "You made it thru the first round ...." I finally had to write to them and ask them to come to a decision because they don't accept "simultaneous submissions" and as long as they were considering it I couldn't send it elsewhere - and I really wanted to move on (if they weren't going to take it). The managing editor wrote me a really nice letter (that I still have), singing the praises of the piece but saying they wanted to pass. Okay, fine! I placed it in the next place I submitted to. I KNEW that piece had legs!! Just submitted another piece to her again 2 days ago, and she remembered me. Now, come on. That is something.

I need every little bit of self-propelled confidence I can get.


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My friend Allison

About 10 years ago my friend Rebecca was getting married on Block Island. I worked with Rebecca at an internet site called The Hub (it used to be a channel on AOL, the old AOL) and we had become good friends. A group of New York people (one of whom I knew, and two of whom I knew only slightly) rented a car to drive up to Rhode Island together. It was me, Felicia, John, and Allison. Felicia and I were good friends (she also worked at the Hub). I had met Allison once at a party in Brooklyn at this fantastic loft/warehouse space where Rebecca lived and she and I had taken the subway back into the city together. I remember we talked about religion as we sat waiting for the train. I liked her very much. She was Rebecca's best friend.

So here we all were, on a road trip, connected to each other only through Rebecca.

It's a trip that was so memorable that we all still reference it. We had gotten rooms at one of the big old-fashioned hotels on Block Island. And you just never know what traveling with someone is going to be like, especially people that you don't know all that well. But the four of us just CLICKED. We worked together as a group. We split up the driving. There wasn't one drip in the group. Also, kudos to John. It was three girls and him. We eventually were all tormenting him by throwing references to "tampons" into the conversation, because we would get such a predictable response. He was hilarious - we loved him. "Oh, come on, do we have to talk about THAT stuff?" he'd say as one of us would start raving about our ovulation, just to get a rise out of him.

We took the ferry out to Block Island. It was a rough windy day, and I remember John got us all beers on the ferry and we, being naive, thought it would be awesome to drink them out on the deck, so we all walked out on the deck and - whoosh - our beer foam was lifted bodily off each of our beers and flew, willy nilly, into each other's faces. John's beer foam flew right into my face. It was hilarious - because all of the locals (and what is even more ridiculous - I AM a local) were drinking their beers inside the boat, because they obviously knew the danger of beer-foam-flying ... so they must have watched our naive stumbling outside with some humor. "Watch ... they'll be back inside in 2 seconds ..." Covered in beer foam, the four of us staggered back inside the ferry, laughing hysterically.

It was autumn, which is my favorite time to go out to Block Island. My sister taught out there for a year and my visits to her were in the fall and also the early spring. It's a whole different place out there then than during the tourist season. The ocean was a deep dark blue, and there was that light in the air - the long low autumn light - we were all exhilarated. First of all, to be out of the city on a little road trip, but second of all, because the surroundings were so beautiful.

Our hotel was a big rambling Victorian structure that you can see when you get off the ferry in Block Island. It had an enormous wraparound porch with Adirondack chairs, and the stairways were thickly carpeted and narrow, the lobby filled with gee-gaws and clutter. Felicia and I shared a room, and Allison and John shared a room. Again, hilarious. They didn't even know each other. But I swear - within an hour of our drive, we had become siblings.

Cashel was just a baby at this time - Maria was a friend of Rebecca's too (she also worked at the Hub) - so it was so cool to see Maria and Cashel strolling up Main Street. Or, actually (hard to imagine now), he was probably in his stroller. He was still just a white-haired little chubb-ball at this point, obsessed with cars of any kind (all of which he referred to as "da-bwah" - except for one startling moment when he pointed at a vehicle going by and said clearly, "JEEP.") Cashel lived in Brooklyn at that time, so I saw him almost every weekend.

That night was the rehearsal dinner, that we were not invited to, so we went to a local dive bar - and Rebecca and her husband-to-be ended up joining us there after the rehearsal dinner. It was a crazy joint. Most places in Block Island are. There was a great juke box. And I remember it was that night that Allison and I first really clicked. We were having so much fun. Just with each other. We were like sisters. The place wasn't packed, because it was off-season, and we had this whole area upstairs to ourselves, and we all got pitchers of beer and whooped it up, a happy foursome. At one point, Allison and I started doing some interpretive dance, and once we started, we could not stop. We would make up stories: "Okay, so you're a bitchy girl in high school and I'm a shy girl who wants to be your friend ... GO." And we would act it out to, oh, the Steve Miller song that was playing. It was so stupid and so fun. It was like being a little kid.

And I still find that with Allison - she, my dear beautiful blonde-haired friend of many years now ... when we are together, we can go into a zone of childhood, we are free with each other that way ... It's not a polite grown-up-friend kind of relationship, although of course we have very deep conversations and she has really been there for me in SO many ways over the years. But when I think of the two of us and how we became friends ... doing interpretive pantomime dance in a dive bar on Block Island - acting out various scenarios - for HOURS, guys - HOURS ... it makes so much sense, because in many ways that is still who we are to each other. We give each other that freedom.

Later that night, the four of us were staggering back to our hotel, a little bit worse for the wear, and WAY TOO LOUD for our environment. Someone screamed at us from a nearby house to keep it down. Ooops. Sorry. We are being bad guests.

And I remember for some reason, as we walked down the street, I was pontificating about instances of racism seen on The Real World (shut up, Sheila) - and out of nowhere - I fell. This was a wipeout of epic proportions. One minute I was up, the next I was down. I broke the fall completely with my palms and I skidded on the sidewalk. For the rest of the weekend, I kept referring to "my stigmata". I was feeling no pain, though. As I got back up, Allison (who was laughing hysterically) said, "What happened, Sheila?" I said, "I have no idea. I think I just fell on a crack in the atmosphere." Allison still, to this day, says that to me on occasion. Or she will remind me of it. "Member when you fell on a crack in the atmosphere and got stigmata?" Only in my life would a sentence like that make any sense.

The wedding was outside on a beautiful golden field in the center of Block Island. Cashel wore a blue velvet suit. The memory of him, now a Boy Scout, and 11 years old, is killing me!

The reception was outside, under a tent. There was a huge orange harvest moon, rising up out of the black ocean. The beauty was almost too much. It's like having a too-rich dinner followed by too-many lavish desserts. Too much beauty. We would step out from under the tent and stare up at the moon and just say, "God. Look at that."

Felicia, who is a photographer, had brought her old-fashioned Polaroid camera, and we took many pictures, many of which I still have. For some reason, I so remember one of the photos that I, or someone else, took. Felicia was squatting, she had no shoes on by that point, and she was talking to Cashel. I showed Felicia the picture, and she, a gorgeous black girl with little braids on her head, said, in dismay, "I look like a squatting native." We all still say that phrase. Squatting native! We all howled about it. "No, you don't, Felicia!" "Look at me, with the bare feet and the braids - God! I am totally a squatting native!"

The weekend was so magical it was hard to let it go. Felicia, John, Allison and I were all kind of sad and quiet as we packed up to go home the next morning. Who would we be without each other?? It felt like the four of us had been traveling forever. We NEEDED John there, to talk about girlie things like menstruation and vaginas, just to tease him. "You know what, John?" "What?" "I was just thinking about my vagina ..." "Oh, for God's SAKE!" He would get so embarrassed so of course it was impossible NOT to tease him. Our dynamic as a group was magnificent! The four of us did go out a couple of times after that, trying to recapture the group glory. It was an unlikely group, but it worked. It's not easy to travel with people, either. There always seems to be someone who is too anal, or someone who is too irresponsible and doesn't pick up the slack ... someone who ruins it. But with us four ... we all were equals, hovering and managing and doing what needed to be done.

Most of the best friends I have made in my life - the ones that are still here in my life - are the ones I made between the ages of 10 and 18. Beth, Betsy, Meredith, Michele, Mitchell, Jackie, David, Liz ... these are friends from grade school, high school and college. These are forever people. Once you become a true adult, it seems like it's harder to make friends like that. I, however, have been very lucky. When in Chicago, as a woman in my 20s, I made friends with Ann Marie and Kate - and these women are truly DEAR to me, like they are two of my best friends ... and I met them after I was already "formed", if you will. It's such a blessing. While in Chicago, I also befriended Ted - a man I am still close to, after all these years. I don't know who I would be if I couldn't get together with Ted every couple of months, and drink wine, and talk about ... well ... everything. I cherish all of my friends, and I know I am lucky to have such a great group of them. And the ones I made as an adult have a special place in my heart. Because it means the heart has not atrophied ... it is still capable of letting someone in. You can see the opposite happen with many adults, and I feel very lucky that that has not happened to me. Or perhaps luck has nothing to do with it. I think it might be something I have actually chosen, I'm not sure.

And Allison, from that weekend in Block Island, became one of my closest and dearest friends. There have been times over the years when either she or I will consider leaving New York - and that still might happen - and I get a bolt of stress at the thought of not being able to see her whenever I want.

Our relationship runs the gamut. We love to talk about movies and Celebrity Rehab and Charles Manson and men. We have mentioned to each other that we would like to do more - meaning: read the New York Times, see that something interesting is going on, an exhibit, whatever - and go check it out. We want to go to The Cloisters. We have PLANS, as friends. I cherish that. We have these epic sleepovers at her house (accompanied by her dog Oscar and her cat Charlie) where we climb under the puff on her bed and watch ... whatever ... late into the night. We like to 'show each other' movies. It's one of our favorite things to do. Like, she made me watch The Family Stone, a movie I really had no interest in seeing - but she had seen it and fell in love with it and KNEW I would love it too (she was totally right - Love that movie) so she wanted to see it with me. We are now in the middle of watching Slings & Arrows together - halfway through the third (and final) season. The second I saw the first damn episode, I could barely hold myself back from calling her up immediatley and inviting myself over. She HAD to see this. It's exhilarating to share something you love with someone else - who has the same level of appreciation for things as you do, the same kind of humor.

In 2005, we went to Ireland together for 10 days, and our trip encompassed her birthday (we flew out of New York on her birthday) and mine. The adventures we had were without number, and it was reiterated to me again that we really travel WELL together. When I get serious or antsy, she laughs in my face, lightening the mood (the episode with the blue pen as we landed in Dublin comes to mind). We shared the driving, 50-50, and kind of just went where we wanted to go, and we lingered when we felt like lingering. We ended up sleeping over in Glendalough because it was late and we didn't want to drive out of the mountains in the dark ... we ended up lingering in Kinsale for three days because it was just so pretty there ... we took the train up to Belfast to hang out with Carrie and her husband ... and it all just worked out. We were excellent companions. You never know with travel.

She's a beautiful person, a voracious reader, an intelligent critic (our discussions are awesome), and she's a person where I always want to know what she thinks. Books I read, movies I see ... what will Allison think?

But more than that: I cherish her friendship because when I am with her, I remember what it was like to be 10 years old again.

Happy birthday (belated), Allison.

I love you. You are essential to me.


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November 17, 2008

Mickey Rourke homework from Michael

Quoted from one of the many emails that have been flying back and forth:

MUST-SEE MICKEY MOVIES YOU HAVEN'T COMMENTED ON YET (that i'm sure you've either seen or know you should):

POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE: most guys love this movie and it seems to be THE Rourke movie for most.
RUMBLE FISH
SPUN: good late Rourke. he's billed as a supporting character, but he's actually the lead.
SIN CITY: you may have already commented on this already.

MEDIOCRE MICKEY MOVIES YOU SHOULD STILL SEE:

BULLET: i remember thinking this Tupac movie was OK, but i was desperate for a silver-lining.
HOMEBOY which he co-wrote and starred his wife at the time. an interesting performance as a dim-witted boxer.
HARLEY DAVIDSON & THE MARLBORO MAN: campy bad, but if you want to see Mickey try his hand at comedy, worth seeing.

GOOD CAMEOS:

THE RAINMAKER as "Bruiser Stone." what a perfect name for late period Mickey.
BUFFALO 66
HEAVEN'S GATE

IF YOU GOT NOTHING BETTER TO DO:

DESPERATE HOURS
GET CARTER
DOMINO

xo
G.

He's basically annoyed that I am not posting more. I love his kind of judgey parenthetical: " (that i'm sure you've either seen or know you should)" .

It's the "know you should" that kills me.

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Sadly, Barfly is not available on Netflix and if you want to buy it on Amazon it starts at 70 bucks. I remember seeing this in the movie theatre and I must see it again. (Naturally I am working on a huge Mickey Rourke project in anticipation of the premiere of The Wrestler on December 17). So I emailed Michael in a panic about the Barfly situation and Michael popped his copy of the CD in the mail this morning.

At least ex-boyfriends are good for something.

I kid.

I've had a tremendously long day involving Actors Equity, gynecology, and almost zero food. Tonight I watch Michael Cimino's Year of the Dragon.

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November 6, 2008

"Yeah, I'd like to order some provolone and mozzarella ...

... and, uhm ... well ... Wow. Cheer up buddy, won't you? Everything is going to be okay."

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October 29, 2008

Happy birthday, Mr. Tony!

Today is Mitchell's birthday. One of my dearest friends in the world. We met (officially) when I was 18 and he was 19, although he knew OF me before that time, and basically stalked me through the Wakefield Mall, hiding in a potted plant outside of Cherry Webb & Torraine. We were destined to be friends. And when it happened, when we clicked, we very quickly became insufferable to pretty much anyone who knew us. It was as though NOBODY HAD EVER BECOME FRIENDS BEFORE since THE DAWN OF TIME. We would literally hold hands and SKIP through the lobbies of our college campus. We were out of control. We fell in love. And we're still in love. He's one of my best and dearest friends.

Our adventures are beyond number. Yes, he ripped Jackie's brown wool leg-wraps, and that was a bitter pill for both of us to swallow. But we moved on. We are all still friends. After college - David, Maria, Jackie, Mitchell and I all ended up in Chicago together. To say we "wreaked havoc" is to misuse language.

But why the title of this post?

That is an old old OLD joke (and it has spawned many other jokes) from when we all first met in college. So it's ancient history yet it is the gift that keeps on giving.

Mitchell was calling his mother at work. I can't remember where she worked - but it was a situation where an intercom would announce the call (Mitchell, do I have this right?) - as in: "Millie, your son's on line 2." So Mitchell, naturally, could never call and just say it was him. He made up names, identities - so that his mother would be called to the phone for "Mr. Zamboni on line 3." (This spawned another game where we would try to come up with the most ridiculous names and it always had to be in the context of a business call. "Mr. Slingback Pump is on line 2." "Yes, can I tell him who's calling?" "Mr. Shrimp Marsala is returning his call." Mitchell and I STILL play this game.)

But one day, Mitchell found himself unable to think of a name under fire. "May I tell her who is calling?" asked the secretary?

Brief horrifying pause where Mitchell went blank, and he then said, "Mr. Tony."

Mr. TONY?? That's the best you can do? Mitchell was like, "I couldn't think of anything! And out came 'Mr. Tony'!"

Of course his mother was now used to this rigmarole, and she came to the phone, picked it up and said, "Fuck you, Mr. Tony."

"Mr. Tony" has so entered the lexicon of our friendship that it is hard to remember where it all started. Everyone is Mr. Tony. Mr. Tony is ubiquitous. It is helpful if you give yourself an adenoidal sound to your voice and an uptight British accent. "Yes, hello, this is Mr. Tony." You can even draw out the "Mr" for extra fun.

How "Mr. Tony" eventually gave birth to "Mrs. Barney" will have to be left for another day.

So, my dear Mr. Tony, I have known you before I knew who I was. You knew who I was. You knew me at my worst, my best. And we're still here. ("A to Z!")

Happy birthday, spacetwin.


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October 28, 2008

More in my own personal "book of laughter and forgetting"

Prologue here, in which Michael remembers more than I do, an unheard-of situation in my personal experience.

Me to Michael in response to first email:

What??? I had already seen Johnny Handsome? What am I, on crack? I remember EVERYTHING ... how could I have forgotten?? I was probably just so aware of your smokin' hottiness next to me ... could that be it? ... I am mortified. I wonder what else I have forgotten. Horrifying.

Michael in response:

yes, you completely forgot a lovely afternoon in which we watched JOHNNY HANDSOME together. i feel that Pat may have been there with us, in that uncomfortable apartment with that weird, fey drug addict dude with the dark eyes. i remember lots of cat hair or dog hair, but we watched it. we may have justified watching it for the Southern accents, i don't know, but we watched it all right. i think the assumption that you were distracted by my "hotness" is accurate, though, and i'm willing to forgive you.

Believe it or not, the "dog hair cat hair" detail actually does spark something in my memory, as well as the fey drug addict who eventually became so bizarre that Pat and Michael fled into the night to find other lodgings.

To quote Inspector Clouseau in one of my favorite moments in the entire Pink Panther series: "Yes, it's all coming back to me now ......" (crash ... bang ... boom ...)

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October 27, 2008

In which Michael, an ex-boyfriend, remembers more than I do

Mitchell has always referred to me as "the Homer in our group of friends", due to my propensity to write everything down and to retain EVERYTHING. I have a tendency to shock my friends with my memory about THEIR lives. I not only retain my own life, but everyone else's as well.

When it comes to my ex-boyfriends, I sometimes feel like I carry around ALL the memories for both of us, which is not entirely fair of me, it's just a perception I have.

Cut to a couple weeks ago. I am starting my Mickey Rourke obsession and I write a piece on Johnny Handsome, which I hadn't seen.

Last night, I get an email from Michael, one of my ex-boyfriends. I dated him for 6 weeks over 10 years ago, yet we have remained in touch, and good friends. Michael has gone on to great success - and I included the movie he directed (and also wrote and starred in) - Kwik Stop - in my under-rated movies series. I'm proud of him. In 2006, he came and stayed with me for a week, and while the whole week was full of talk - we also had a great conversation, on the roof, about "what we remembered". I love that crap. The world can be a howling wilderness. It is so nice to be reminded that you are specific to someone, that YOU are held in THEIR brain ... it gives substance to the intangible. It means a lot to me.

SO. There is the preamble for the hysterical email I received last night.

He and I haven't talked in a couple of months and suddenly an email from him comes in.

I read it and started laughing.

I wrote him back and asked him permission to post it on the blog, because it is too funny a joke on myself NOT to share. When I asked him if I could post it, he replied,

of course you can quote my email (i'm a whore).
more soon.
#1 Mickey fan

I am laughing out loud.

So here is Michael's email entire.

And remember that I had made this huge deal on my site out of not seeing Johnny Handsome:

ok.
so i just read most of your posts on Mickey and as you already know, i worship the man. more than Travolta. in fact, it's always been a joke amongst my friends that i could go on for hours about his career and how important he is, etc., and for nearly a decade, i was still renting all those straight-to-video pieces of garbage for a glimmer of the former man (Another 9 1/2 Weeks, Bullet, Thursday, etc) and hoping for a comeback in Animal Factory or The Pledge or even Get Carter and finally, yes, Sin City, but The Wrestler seems to be the film to finally put our man back on top.

So.

what's this bullshit that you NEVER saw Johnny Handsome before? uh, excuse me, but i distinctly remember showing it to you in Ithaca, at that first apartment Pat & i were staying at, one cloudy Sunday afternoon, talking throughout, pointing out his genius, especially the scene in which he takes off the bandages. how could you forget any precious moment with me?

I have no reason to doubt Michael's memory - although, in my defense, I have NO memory of this - and that is so so weird to me, because like I said - I remember everything. I thought I remembered EVERYTHING about our relationship. That's the whole point of the damn cup I stole. But somehow, I did NOT remember him showing me Johnny Handsome and "pointing out his genius" to me "one cloudy Sunday afternoon". Not only that - but the movie itself has VANISHED from my memory. That is so weird. I remember word for word dialogue from 8 is Enough episodes that aired in 1979 and I don't remember Johnny Handsome, a movie starring my favorite actor? Was I on crack? Was I so overwhelmed by Michael's presence that I wasn't thinking straight? What the hell?

Perhaps it will come back under hypnosis.

So now I am getting a taste of my own medicine. Someone remembers MORE than I do. Very odd. And also - I have been SO busted on my "Ohmygod I have not seen Johnny Handsome" statements and I just love it when that happens. It's so funny to me. I love picturing Michael reading that post and being like, "What the hell is her problem? Yes, she DID see Johnny Handsome. BAH HUMBUG."

Fact-checked by an ex.

So, yeah. I guess I DID see Johnny Handsome, lo those many years ago, as the clouds rolled in from the north, sitting next to my boyfriend, as he pointed out moments he loved, a movie that clearly means a lot to him. But as far as I'm concerned NONE of it remains in my brain. I'll just have to trust him that it happened.

I revel in the novelty of this experience.

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September 23, 2008

My friend Luisa - at last!

Luisa (whispered to me): "I want to be on your blog."
Me: (protesting) "I've written about you before!"
Luisa (whispering, scratching the wall quietly in a vaguely disturbing and frightening manner): "But I want to be on it more."

I still can't stop laughing about that.

Luisa: jewelry designer (see her work here) slash therapist. She has a store (Argentum Designs) - and the jewelry she designs is called Argentum Jewelry. Ever since I've known her - she has made jewelry. It's really cool stuff - stones, and metal and beach glass ... and they're also instantly recognizable as a Luisa Design.

Luisa has been a friend since college. She is the one who said, on an infamous hungover morning in college, that her badly behaved dog was her "bear to cross". Mitchell and I sat on the couch, hungover, as Luisa wandered through her apartment, looking tragic and under-slept, muttering about her "bear to cross". We were, frankly, too afraid to say, "Uhm ... don't you mean 'cross to bear'?" Better to just leave things unsaid. I still say "bear to cross" on an almost daily basis.

Luisa makes the best ice coffee in the world. To quote my brother: "This ice coffee tastes like candy!!"


Luisa, calling out from the kitchen, "MAMA'S IN THE KITCHEN!"


One day, we all sat out on the back porch of Luisa's condo, looking through the boxes and boxes of beads that Luisa uses to make her jewelry. Jackie, for some reason, became "Bead Lady" - and did improvisational monologues about each bead she pulled out, making shit up as she went along, about Incan temples and voodoo rites symbolized in the bead ... She pulled out one bead, glanced at it, and then looked up and stated bluntly, "This bead pre-dates Christ."


Luisa and Mitchell, doing voiceovers for Luisa's small frail dying cat - using a small passive-aggressive voice: "Oh, don't mind me don't mind me ... I'm dying." "You guys go ahead ... don't worry about me ... I'm dying ..."


STAHZANDMOONZ .... stahs annnnnd mooooooonz .... If I am remembering correctly, Luisa dated a girl once who was really into "stars and moons". If it had a star and a moon on it? This girl loved it. Luisa came to visit us in Chicago so we went to a store (the Alley on Belmont, if you must know) to find a present for the girlfriend ... and Luisa said bluntly as we entered the store, "All I'm looking for is stars and moons ..." The joke stuck with us and now it has, of course, morphed beyond all recognition. It must be said in a long-drawn-out Rhode Island accent, with nary an "R" in sight - and you must not be able to understand one word. "Allz I care about is STAHHHHHHHHHHHZ NNNNND MOOOOOOOOOOOONZ ..."


Once upon a time, Luisa, Mitchell and I went out for Thai food in Chicago on a blustery rainy night. Luisa commented upon the blue and white china cup (with a neat little cap) that we drank coffee from - and said, "God, my mom would love something like this for her china closet." And I couldn't stop myself. I shoved my blue and white china cup in the pocket of my raincoat and, after we paid the check, walked out with it. I literally couldn't resist. We got half a block away from the restaurant, walking into the driving rain, before I came clean. "Uhm ... Luisa ..." She glanced at me and I slowly opened my raincoat to show her my stolen goods. We all flipped OUT and started running as fast as we could - Luisa screaming, "I can't believe you did that!!!" And to this day, that little blue and white china cup sits in Luisa's mother's china closet. Horrible. But funny.


Recently, I was trying to talk to her seriously and I realized, halfway thru my impassioned monologue, that Luisa was more focused on trying to neatly position her drinking straw around her own eyetooth. I am still laughing about it. We were crying. I was pleading, "Luisa, I'm trying to tell a serious story ..." Luisa (with the straw hanging off of her eyetooth) said, "Yeah, yeah, I know, but look how cool this is ... It fits perfectly!"


Luisa: "Okay, I'm going to bed now. I have a movie I want to watch."
Me: "What movie?"
Luisa: "The Painted Veil."
(Brief pause.)
Me: "I don't understand."

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June 14, 2008

Hero in stilettoes

My skirt was too short, my heels were too high, I was wearing fishnets for God's sake, and my lips were far too blacky-red for me to be riding on that particular L line that night. I was headed to a Christmas party in Rogers Park, in an iffy area, and the train had to go through even more iffy areas, and I realized, too late, what a risk I had taken. There was an edgy energy in the car, an on-the-make electric charge, too many people with nowhere to go, nowhere to be - you could sense it, the looking-for-something-to-happen expression on restless dead-eyed faces - it's an energy which is unmistakable to folks who live in urban environments, but was new to me at the time. Humans, like animals, have a Fight or Flight instinct. Danger has a scent. I smelled it the second we hit Wilson. I had ridden that train every day for months, but not past Addison. Wilson was another world. A rowdy element got onto the train, and I knew immediately I was in trouble. Or - let's just say - I knew I had "Target" or "Bait" written all over me. It was one group of guys who lasered their sights on me. They were on the make, man. I got a jolt of unmistakable adrenaline the second those guys got on the train, a turbo shot of the survival instinct. Nerve endings lit up with warning signs, breathing heightened in the chest, eyeballs dilated, everything focused to a laser point with one over-riding goal: survive. Survival depends on you being alert. There are more of them than you. They are jazzed on testosterone and restlessness/boredom, one of the worst combinations in the history of humanity. When there is something to do, somewhere to put all that energy, it does not threaten. But when there's a vacuum? And all you can do is scan the crowd lazily for someone to take it out on? I was the short-skirted girl with a nice little purse. I was in deep shit.

Tigh and Hubbell were my friends, and they were having a Christmas party at their apartment. I was in my chaotic mid-20s, where I maybe had one soup pot to my name, and a poster of Tori Amos taped to my kitchen cupboard. I had moved to Chicago with two suitcases, and I preferred to travel light at that time in my life. But Tigh and Hubbell, although also in their mid-20s, were a gay couple who had painted their apartment, a spacious falling-down four-bedroom on the top floor of what amounted to a slum, different colors - deep red walls in the living room, the bathroom a midnight blue with gold stars and crescent moons - there were plants and African statues and they had framed pictures on their walls. The kitchen was always stocked with food, and they had a big rackety back porch, where we would all convene on hot summer nights and have cocktails. Going to visit Tigh and Hubbell was like going to visit Grown-up Land for a bit. You felt taken care of. When you slept over, there was a guest room, and the bed had clean sheets and a lavender sachet in the pillow case. They had an extensive movie collection, and we would have movie marathons, and dress-up parties, and fashion shows. Tigh and Hubbell had been together for two years. "That's 10 years in gay time," Tigh cracked. They were an old established couple. I was cavorting left and right with inappropriate awesome men, staying out all night, blowing people off who didn't suit me, making out with M. (the main flame) in the corner of the bowling lanes, and staying resolutely unattached. It was all good. There was nothing wrong. I had just gotten out of a four year relationship where I had pretty much drowned in domesticity, a domesticity that didn't suit me. But it sure was nice to visit such a world.

I had known Tigh in college. He was a beautiful boy with high cheekbones, jet-black hair that he wore in a mane down his back, occasionally twirling it up into a pompadour stuck through with Japanese hairpins. Sometimes, after a couple of cocktails, he would put on stilettoes, and lip synch 'Just leave everything to me' from Hello Dollyas though his life depended on it . "If you want your roof inspected, eyebrows tweezed or bills collected - just leave everything to me!" He spoke in a high flamboyant voice, would say dogmatic things in a mixed crowd like, "Hollywood went to the DOGS after the studio system fell. I will not hear any other arguments about it. Hollywood needs to bring the studio system BACK!" Someone might say, tentatively, "But Tigh ... there was a lot of abuse and people being taken advantage of ..." His decibel level would skyrocket and he would bulldoze over you. "THE STUDIO SYSTEM WAS THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ARTISTS IN THIS COUNTRY." And you know what, he could back up his opinion with facts, figures, box office returns, and how the gaffers and grips on Casablanca felt a part of the process. He was encyclopedic when it came to old Hollywood. I loved Tigh. His role in the relationship was hostess. He would greet us at the door, and swirl around, making sure we were taken care of. Sometimes he would be wearing a vintage cocktail dress, other times pajamas or crumpled sweats. His elegance did not have to do with his attire. It had to do with who he was.

Hubbell's real name was not actually Hubbell. But we all referred to him as Hubbell, because of The Way We Were. Tigh liked to live in a romance in his mind, and there was nothing more romantic than that movie. Also, Hubbell - with his ruddy clear face, his conservative haircut, twinkly blue eyes, and overall masculine handsomeness, was reminiscent of Robert Redford in that film. Hubbell was the responsible one. He kept the steaks going on the grill, he laughed at Tigh's antics, he made sure we all felt comfortable, and that we always had enough to eat. He was a lot of fun, too. He loved being able to have a nice home where his friends could feel comfortable. You always felt safe when Hubbell was around.

Which brings me back to my ride on the L.

It was just me and the group of guys on that one train. Me against them. They were talking at me, taunting, whistling - almost begging for a response from me. I'm not a paranoid person, and I can enjoy a nice catcall every once in a while, but this was different. This was threatening and reductive. I could feel it in the air. I knew I had been an idiot to blithely get on the L train dressed like that, but I was broke, wouldn't take a cab, and also I feel resentful of having my independence of movement impinged on like that, so I do take risks. I'll be damned if I let threatening men get in MY way of living my life.

I wanted to move into another car, but I felt that that would attract undue attention. It would be like blood to a vampire. The thing men like that love is weakness. It is what they look for, and what they thrive on. If you walk around with a "victim" sign on your back, they will get the message. We're in the Wild Kingdom now. These are animal rules. So I sat stony-faced and grim, as though I were deaf and blind, and could not sense their growing interest in me. But I was already thinking ahead, in a panic, to getting off the train. I knew what that L station was like. It was not a hubbub and more often than not, it was deserted. It was only a block to Tigh and Hubbell's apartment from there, but a block can be a long long way. I wasn't sure what to do. I just had a sense. I knew, like I know the color of my own eyes, that when I stood up to get off, the group of guys would stand, too. I just knew it.

I was right. I stood up to get off, they all stood up too. Inside I'm thinking, FUCK. This was before cell phones, so I was screwed. Now what I would do would be manufacture a reason to have a long pretend cell phone conversation during the train ride, which would give me a cloud of impenetrability - and perhaps call ahead to Tigh and Hubbell to let them know I would be arriving. I didn't want to NOT get off at my stop, because I knew the stops further north were even worse, not to mention being unfamiliar territory.

I wish I could be more specific about what the guys were saying. To be honest, I can't remember. I know it was focused directly at me, and it put fear into my heart. I am an independent person, and I've lived in cities for most of my adult life. I am used to having moments of fear when you realize: Oh. This is a block I need to get off of as quickly as possible. But the fear I felt on the L train was a horse of a different color. It was threatening, whatever it was - and in a direct and immediate way. I felt in danger.

So I stood up, all the guys stood up, and as we got off the train together, one of them turned and said, right to my face, with a leer, "We gonna rape you."

I stopped in my tracks, the train was already pulling away, and the guys all ran down the stairs to the lower level, laughing uproariously, calling back up to me in a taunting way, "We gonna rape you! Come on down here, girl, we'll be waiting!"

My instincts are almost never wrong. Like I said, I'm not a paranoid person or a fraidy-cat. I get annoyed by catcalls, especially if they are designed to make me feel uncomfortable - or to reduce me to my parts - that's what I don't like ... but whatever. Giving someone the finger who does that to you usually makes you feel better, even if they laugh in your face, and you can stroll on your merry way. But here I was in a situation that I sensed from Moment One was something else. They were stalking me like an animal on that train ride. Not with movement, obviously, but with undivided attention. Being looked at like that is a threat, in the same way that a wounded bird staring up at a cobra (thank you, Kipling) knows that just to be looked at in that moment means the end is near.

I was on the L platform on a freezing December night, and those guys who were "gonna rape me" were below, as far as I knew. Nobody else was on that platform, and I felt paralyzed. I knew I could not go down those stairs. I was not ready for some kind of Ninja-like fight with the rapists below. There were too many of them and I just didn't want to risk it.

Later, when I told M. this story, and it all had become funny to me, he yelled at me. It was my first inkling, despite all of our hilarious sexual shenanigans, that he actually, you know, liked me. I mean, I knew he liked me, but he was so pissed off at me for the L platform debacle that he wouldn't talk to me for about 20 minutes. He was mad at me for putting myself at risk, first of all. He was shouting at me at Southport Lanes, as we ate chicken wings, and listened to Stevie Ray Vaughn on the jukebox. "This is BULLshit, what the fuck were you doing traveling through those neighborhoods in fishnets? What is your problem?" I got quite meek. I was actually flattered that he was bitching me out. "I'm sorry ... I wasn't thinking." "No shit you weren't thinking. Why didn't you call me?" "I ... well ... I ... No idea. No idea whatsoever." It would never, in a million years, have occurred to me to call HIM in such a moment of need. We were both Don't Fence Me In types, and I respected that in him because I was the same way. But here was another level, which snuck up on us, and surprised me. He said, grumpy in an almost irrevocable way, I thought our whole night would be ruined, "If I ever find out that you're almost raped on some fucking L platform and you don't call me to come get you, I'll never speak to you again." "Okay, M. I got it. I'm sorry. I thought it was funny." "It's not funny." "Okay, okay."

I stood up on that platform, like a trapped animal, for about 15 minutes, trying to figure out what to do. No other trains came by, where I could maybe blend in with the other commuters as they all went downstairs. I stared down the stairs, and couldn't see anything. No leering rapists. I couldn't even hear them. So maybe they were just messing with me, liked freaking me out, and had already moved on with their bullshit night full of loser behavior. But I had no way of knowing. What if they were lying in wait for me down there? What if they were huddled at the other end of the stairway, out of sight from me, waiting to pounce on me? If they were hiding there, then they knew I hadn't come down. I was trapped. And pissed at myself!

There was a phone on the platform, and finally (finally!) I called Tigh and Hubbell to explain the situation. I had so wanted to try to get out of it myself, but I couldn't figure it out and I was so scared that I felt a little bit indecisive.

The funniest thing about the whole night is that you could actually see Tigh and Hubbell's apartment from the L platform. I had been staring over there longingly, seeing the figures in the window, moving this way, that, silhouetted, it was a party, there was a Christmas tree, we were doing a Yankee swap, and I could sense, from my frigid position on the L platform, the warmth and laughter and music emanating from those windows. So close and yet it might as well have been in Kathmandu for as reachable it was to me. If only I could levitate myself across the intervening block and knock on those windows!

I hate to make waves. I hated to be the girl calling the party, having a problem. But there was no way around it. I dug in my purse for change with my shaking little twig fingers (it was freezing) and dialed the number.

Tigh answered, in his swirly high feminine voice. "Merry Christmas!!" he said.

I launched right into it. "Tigh, it's Sheila!"

He started shrieking. "Sheila?? Where ARE you? Everyone's here!"

I said, mortified, "I'm stuck on the L platform near your house."

I didn't realize it would be possible for a gay man to yell louder or higher than he already was, but Tigh went up an octave. "You're whaaaat?????"

And then, I saw a silhouette in his window, with the familiar bouffant pompadour, as though a Geisha girl were working the party. But I knew it was Tigh. The sight of Tigh's silhouette, staring across the space for me, in my lonely solitude on the L platform, was tremendously comforting.

Tigh screamed at the top of his lungs, "OH MY GOD I CAN SEE YOU!"

I began to see other little black silhouette heads peering out the windows of the apartment, all of my friends, staring at me, and wondering what the hell I was doing all the way over there.

I said, like an assassin, "Okay, listen, here's the situation. There were some scary guys on the train and they got off this stop with me and one of them told me he would rape me. And I'm afraid they're waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs."

Tigh went ballistic. "DON'T MOVE. STAY WHERE YOU ARE." And he hung up on me.

I stood there, watching all the frantic scurrying about of the black silhouettes at the party, and I knew that my predicament was being declaimed to the throngs, and so although I was embarrassed, it certainly was awesome to know that someone knew where I was, and that help was on the way.

The L platforms are open to the elements in Chicago, so it was freezing cold, and eerily quiet. I was almost certain that the guys were not waiting for me, but my legs had turned to mush, and all I could picture was me walking down those stairs and then suddenly having to run as fast as I could, with all of them pursuing me, and it was too horrible to contemplate.

And then, through the eerily still winter night, I could hear Tigh approaching. It was too far, obviously, to hear his heels on the pavement. No, what I heard was - him roaring like a lion to the men he thought might be waiting for me, "MOTHERFUCKERS, ARE YOU READY FOR A FIGHT? I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU ... I AM COMING RIGHT NOW TO KILL YOU, I WILL FUCKING KILL YOU MOTHERFUCKERS HERE I COME HERE I COME ... YOU FUCKING MOTHERFUCKERS..." It was unbelievably terrifying. He hadn't even seen them on the street, he didn't even know what was awaiting him when he got to the L station - but he was announcing his arrival as someone NOT to be messed with.

I've always sensed that there is nobody on earth tougher than a flamboyantly feminine man. Because nobody is messed with as consistently and as viciously as people like that. You make fun of a drag queen at your peril, peeps. That girl will put her stiletto through your heart without thinking twice. They know what threat means, on an even more cellular level than women. They are even more other. They are the baddest motherfuckers on the planet.

Tigh and Hubbell had actually come together, but it was Tigh making all the noise. Through the quiet neighborhood came a roaring Geisha girl in stilettoes and a 1940s era cocktail dress. Screaming, "MOTHERFUCKERS HERE I COME FOR MY FRIEND SHEILA."

It turns out that the guys had already disappeared. Tigh and Hubbell burst into the L station below, to find it empty and silent. Nobody lying in wait. But I am 100% certain that if they had been there, Tigh would have ripped them to shreds. He was a tough Rhode Island boy at heart, he fought for his life every day - in little ways and big ways - and the testosterone raged in him as he burst into the station. Raged! Hubbell, in his camel trenchcoat, dress shoes, coat and tie, came running to the stairway leading up to the platform, calling out my name. I could hear Tigh downstairs, still screaming, "FUCK YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!" To ... no one. They were gone. But as we all know, the prospect of a fight leaves you trembling with anticipation. You can't let it go in a second. I ran to the top of the stairs, and saw Hubbell twinkling up at me, saying, "Nobody's down here, Sheila. It's safe now."

I ran down the stairs to them, and Tigh raced towards me ferociously and hugged me, screaming in my ear, "THAT MUST HAVE BEEN SO SCARY FOR YOU!"

Hubbell took my hand and put it through the crook of his arm, grinning at me quietly, like a staid and honest go-to guy, and said, "Let's get you in out of the cold, and get you a cocktail."

I walked in between them to their apartment, all of us linked arms, Tigh reliving his experience of seeing me out the window and how sad and tiny I looked and how there was a flurry of activity when everyone found out what was going on, and everyone wanted to come and save me. The entire party wanted to pour out into the night, trailing fuchsia boas and silken scarves, and kick some ass. But Hubbell was the voice of reason, and talked them all out of it. He and Tigh would go.

When I walked in the door, I was hailed like a long-lost goddess of ancient Troy, who had traveled millions of miles to get to my destination. Someone got me a cocktail. Tigh never left my side, clinking martini glasses with me, complimenting me on my outfit, my makeup, and telling me that he had a fake diamond pin he found in an antique store that he thought would look really good with my ensemble. He was back to his elegant chic self.

But the other Tigh. The one who shouted his apocalyptic warnings of violence through the night like a talkative Rambo, ready to do battle, eager to do battle ... cruisin' for a bruisin' as my father would say. As pumped up on testosterone as the guys on the train, but with a different object, a place to put it. I'll never forget that other Tigh. I only met him once, but man, that boy meant business.

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May 2, 2008

Browsers.

A humorous moment from last night.

I went out with Jen and her new boyfriend (I had not met him yet) for drinks at a bar in Hoboken. I haven't seen Jen since we went to go see Rambo and that is just not right!

So Jen and I had MUCH to catch up on - not to mention the fact that I was meeting the boyfriend - and it was all very exciting and awesome. I loved him. We had a great time together, all of us, and he couldn't have been more lovely, and a gentleman, and funny, and good to Jen, and all that good stuff. Great night.

At one point we had so many different threads of conversation going at the same time, that - as one - we all came to a pause, not sure which thread to follow. I mean, nobody said anything - but we all kind of took a breath - and then Jen's boyfriend said, "We have about 20 browsers open right now. I think we need to close a couple before we move on."

I am STILL laughing about that.

And we did! We went through our browsers (of conversation) - tied up loose ends in a couple of them so we could "close" that "browser" and then we all felt much much better.

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April 29, 2008

How Alex and I met (by request)

Please realize. This is MY version. She may say something totally different. Although I'll kill her if she leaves out the kumquat. I say it was a gourd. She insists it was a kumquat. We'll leave it at that.

It's an episodic story. And YEARS pass in between encounters. It's truly insane to think of it - and I sometimes actually shiver to imagine that we might not have met. I shiver. And weirdly, with all of our friends in common, what brought us together was our blogs.

Well, and Mitchell, of course. Surprise surprise.

Praise Xenu it all lined up properly, putting us in each other's paths. Oh, and praise Xenu himself, that damned evil warlord, for REALLY bringing us close together. But I'll get to that.

We need to go back 16 years. My God. No. Is that right? Let me check my math. Yup. 16 years.

Sorry. I have just realized that I am actually a withered crone.

1.

I had just moved to Chicago. And Mitchell soon followed. I had very quickly gotten work as an actress in Chicago - and so had Mitchell. He became involved with StreetSigns' production of Right As Rain, about Anne Frank. I eventually was cast in that as well, in its touring company. So almost immediately we were thrust into a brand-new world, meeting a whole batch of new people - many of whom are still dear friends today (cough KATE cough). In 1992, StreetSigns did a production of Lorca's The Public, a bizarre piece of work ... and I thought was brilliantly done by StreetSigns. I still remember some of the staging of it. Derek Goldman (artistic director) is a master adapter (Google him, the guy is a phenom) - and he was always all about excavating the script for theatrical ways to tell the story - not just verbal or literal. Mitchell and David and I went to go see it, to see our new friends in action, and also to see our fellow colleagues at work, even though we weren't in it. And Alex was in it. She had a key part, THE key part, as kind of the emcee, a sort of omnipresent Joel Grey in Cabaret type person. I still remember seeing her in that show, which was the first time I laid eyes on Alex. She wore a blinding white pant suit. She had an air of unbelievable stillness. She watched over the action, quietly. We could only imagine what she was thinking. When she spoke, it was always in a soft voice, but nevertheless totally commanding. She had such focus onstage. I was riveted. Not to the mention the fact that I knew (everyone knew) she was transgendered. To me, at that time, it added such an air of mystery to her (I'm sure she's so sick of that kind of thing, so forgive me, Alex, for bringing it up now ... it's just a first impression kind of thing - and now that i know that she basically sits at home on a nightly basis in ratty pajamas playing with her kittens and talking with her wife Chrisanne about Abraham Lincoln and Bette Davis it seems even silly to mention it. I never even think of it now) ... but at the time, I couldn't help but stare at her, thinking, "Who IS this person??" Not to mention the fact that she was obviously a fucking actress. Girl had chops. She exuded it.


2.

2 may come before 3. I can't remember. I'll start here. Mitchell got a day job as a receptionist in a dentist's office that catered primarily to the gay and lesbian community in Chicago. Michelle and Maureen (Michelle was the dentist, and Maureen was her doctor girlfriend) became huge parts of our lives in Chicago, beloved friends - and I will never, and I mean NEVER, forget that Maureen made a house call - a HOUSE CALL - when I was gravely sick with a fever - to the point of hallucinating - and had no insurance. THAT'S a doctor. Anyway. I loved those two and I miss them both. And I knew, through Mitchell, that Alex was a patient of Michelle's. Mitchell didn't become friends with her immediately (which is shocking, knowing Mitchell's propensity for friendship) but they did become friendly. I never saw Alex at Michelle's office, and had no encounters with her ... but her name was everywhere at the time because of a crazy hit show she was doing, late night ... and she still held a kind of fascination for me. I'm not sure why. She seemed "other" ... by that I mean: I wanted to know her. I remember that feeling. Wanting to know her. But we're still in 1993 here, we didn't actually SPEAK - not really - until 2004. What?? Thank you, Xenu, for making sure it happened!!


3.

My time in Chicago (and for many years after) was taken up with a guy I call "M" on ye olde blog. I've written about him extensively. He's the lunatic who used to crawl through my window at 3 in the morning. Our beginning was no less unconventional. I realize I'm just writing about myself, but whatever. I love writing about myself (as, duh, should be obvious!!!) Anyhoo. I have no idea how ALEX would describe M., although I can imagine. He was a big obnoxious jock-gone-to-seed, a goofball, a self-described "right-wing sexist pig", one of the funniest people I have ever met, and pretty much insane. I also found him almost apocalyptically sexy and found it difficult to carry on a conversation with him in the first 3 months of knowing him. The perfect guy for me! I have to leap ahead now - years later, when Alex and I finally met - and we talked about M. - she was like, "Please. Please. Help me to understand him and help me to understand WHY YOU WERE WITH HIM." He was tough, I'll give him that. But for me, he was magic. And not only that, but I was pretty damaged when he met me. And something about the way he was with me helped me heal. Sounds goofy, but I swear it is the truth. He was never ever impatient with me. EVER. I was used to men being impatient with me. With my damaged-ness. He NEVER was. He accepted it, but he also wanted me to be better. He treated me in an egalitarian manner, and that was totally singular in my experience. It forced me to meet him halfway, and that was awesome. So. There's the M. factor.

Now. There was a show that opened around this time (it is now known as "the show that will never die") - and it was called Hamlet! The Musical. Notice the exclamation point. Very important. It was written by Jeff Richmond (now husband to Tina Fey - and actually, I believe they were dating at the time - M. ran with that crowd) and it was (is) hilarious. It began in a workshop theatre space at Improv Olympic, then moved to a bigger venue on Belmont (selling to soldout shows the entire time) - and finally made it to Navy Pier in a gigantic production - before coming to New York for an off-Broadway run. It was massive. In its first incarnation, M. was cast as Claudius, the conniving uncle ... and Alex was cast as his wife, the conniving Gertrude. At the time of the show (because, again, it's all about me) M. and I weren't seeing each other anymore (although it was a brief respite ... it always was) ... and he was dating someone else. No biggie. Sure, I had a haiku fit about it, but that's to be expected. (Ah, to be in my mid-20s again). But the thought of M. .... big gruff obnoxious M. ... singing and dancing and doing a freakin' box step was more than I could bear. I had to see it. I ended up seeing it probably 5 times - in its first incarnation. The audiences were RIOTOUS. Your stomach hurt at the end of the show. Ann Marie and I went one night (which will be known as "the night of the gourd" forevermore) ... and we STILL laugh about how funny that show was. It almost lost something when it moved to Navy Pier into that huge space ... because to see it in a 99 seat theatre at the 10 o'clock show (2 shows a night on weekends) on a crazy Friday night ... was something else. It was electric! And yes, seeing M. boxstep - in a cape and a CROWN - being all evil and twirling-moustachey - was an image that got me thru many a dark hour.

And there was Alex again. In a glittery mermaid dress, behaving like an absolute retard. She had a vampy number called "Mama Is a Boy's Best Friend", mkay? She is a force of nature onstage, seriously ... the humor that she finds in every moment is almost RUTHLESS and CRUEL and you want to beg for mercy! Just STOP for one goddamn SECOND and let me REST. Her Gertrude - was a Freudian nightmare. Poor Hamlet (played in the original incarnation by Jeff Richmond himself) kept trying to get through the "To be or not to be" speech, only to be interrupted by her knocks on the door.

I didn't know Alex, at this point - but as should be obvious, she had been peripheral for a couple of years now. Our paths had not yet crossed. I had seen her onstage - and that didn't really count ... and I had no inkling that we would one day become fast friends. Not yet.

Let's get back to the night of the gourd. (IT WAS NOT A KUMQUAT.) I actually posted it all out in a Diary Friday - and I just re-read that entry right now and found myself guffawing. I had started seeing Michael (kind of - after our first passionate love affair of all of 6 weeks) ... and he was, you know, 20 years old ... so things were not going well, even though I adored him (and still do.) So Michael blew me off for a date we had had, and I was at my wit's end - so I called Ann Marie and we decided to go see Hamlet! The Musical. I had not seen it yet. I was dying to see M. in action. I decided to send him something backstage - but flowers would not do ... too weird ... so I decided what WOULDN'T be weird, I decided what would be LESS weird - would be to take a little warted-up gourd, and write "Break a leg" on it - and send it backstage. Yes, I considered that to be NOT AS WEIRD AS FLOWERS.

The entire night became about the gourd (see link above for the full panoply of that night, which was epic). And yes, I did send the gourd backstage. All by itself, poor little thing.

I only learn this a bazillion years later when Alex and I have become friends - that she was there, in the cramped co-ed dressing room, when my gourd arrived. This is so insane!! I had put it in a paper bag, so M. would have had to open it up. He pulled out the gourd (Alex remembers it as a kumquat, but she's wrong) and said, in kind of a pleased tone, "Sheila sent me a gourd!" (Again. I am HOWLING with laughter as I type this.)

Alex, who had all kinds of opinions and thoughts about M. (wonderful onstage, kind of annoying off), wondered who was the RETARD who sent him a kumquat? "What kind of asinine bimbo would send this jagoff a kumquat backstage? Honest to GOD, people are assholes." She had all of these opinions about me ... the bimbo who sent the kumquat to the sexist pig sharing her dressing room ... like: there must be something WRONG with that person.

I am shaking with laughter.

Okay. So let's leave the gourd behind.

Years pass again.

4.

I move from Chicago and go to New York. I live there for years. "The show that will never die" continues on. And when it moves to Navy Pier, Mitchell is cast as Polonius. M. is no longer in it - but Alex, in all her Freudian spangled glory, remains. I fly back to Chicago for a vacation and go to see Mitchell in Hamlet! The Musical. I almost feel like this show has now been in my life for a decade. Yes, I am absolutely 100% peripheral ... but it still feels omnipresent. Navy Pier has a plush massive theatre, and the place is packed.

I wait for Mitchell in the palatial lobby afterwards, Lake Michigan gleaming out of the plate glass windows all around. And Mitchell walks out with Alex, who is in a sweatshirt, face scrubbed of makeup, and her arms are crossed over her chest. This is our first meeting. Mitchell introduces us. Alex un-crosses her arms, just long enough to shake my hand, and then crosses them again. I have all of these weird emotions about her - I guess how people feel about stars - it feels like you know them, even though you do not - and so you have an intimate response to a person, even though it is totally unwarranted.

"Hi, nice to meet you. Great show."
"Thanks. Nice to meet you."

Friendly, yes, but a little bit distant and cold. I wouldn't realize until much much later that Alex is actually shy. You would never guess it from her persona onstage. And I'm shy, too. Although you would never guess it from afar, I seem so dominant. So we were two shy people, being awkward, and distant. It just makes me LAUGH to remember it. I want to intervene. I want to lean into the action, from the future, and say, "Okay. Alex? Uncross your arms. Sheila? Stop the hero worship. See this person standing right in front of you? You are going to be FAST FRIENDS ... so cut. the. shit. NOW."

But it wasn't meant to be.

Mitchell and I went off on our way, and Alex went off on hers, and it would be years ... years ... before we would meet again.

5.

October, 2001. The smoking aftermath. Nothing is normal, nothing is even approaching normal.

And in the middle of all of that, I have a dream.

I dream of a nuclear holocaust, which affected only New Jersey and Manhattan. You just knew: It's over. I am going to die. But the bomb had already been dropped - and the sky was a heavy crayon-black. You knew you could not escape, but everyone was trying to anyway.

Everyone was trying to get to the ocean, everyone in Manhattan and in Jersey were trying to get onto the New Jersey turnpike, towards the Atlantic. But there were too many cars. It was like the roads were backed up from Cape May to lower Manhattan. You could not get out.

There was panic. People were running, and screaming, with their hair on fire, their clothes falling off. The bomb had already been dropped, that blackness in the sky was the fallout, and we were trapped - we could not get out.

I was alone in the dream. I was climbing down the cliffs from Jersey Heights down into Hoboken, looking at the blackened smoking skyline of Manhattan and seeing the roads below me, filled with cars, stalled cars as far as the eye could see.

And suddenly - climbing down the cliff with me - was Alex, who was hugely pregnant in my dream. Maybe 8 or 9 months along.

She was not panicked. Not at all. She knew what to do, she took me in hand, she knew a way out. She was on some other plane of thought, entirely.

"We're gonna get to the ocean," she said, as she climbed down the cliff, huge belly in front of her, moving gracefully and certainly. "I know the way."

I do not know why Alex showed up in my dream during that terrible time, I do not know why I would dream about her when I had had so little contact with her up until that point ... but for some reason, in my mind, and perhaps it was because of how caring and wonderful she had been to my friend Mitchell, she would be that person. That person who would know the way out of the nuclear fallout. Carrying new life with her.

I had not seen Alex since that moment in the lobby at Navy Pier, when we said hello to each other in distant guarded manners. Why on earth would she appear as a savior in my dream? I can't explain it. I know that I sensed something in her ... from the beginning. I don't want to make too big a thing out of it, because it ruins the special-ness of it ... but when I think of her, as a person, and who she eventually would be to me, I realize: Of course. Of course she would know the way. And of course, I had sensed it from moment one, when I saw her in that white pant suit as the emcee of The Public. It was there then. I knew it.

It is still odd to me that Alex would appear in my dream, while the smoke still rose from lower Manhattan ... but I choose not to question such things.

It would still be 3 more years before we actually spoke.


6.

Unbeknownst to one another, we both start blogs. Mitchell, however, is the key here. He is the connection. He had, meanwhile, become dear friends with Alex back in Chicago, and she started up her site and I started up mine ... and Mitchell read both ... and somehow he mentioned to Alex one day something about "my friend Sheila's blog". Alex secretly then began to read my site. She knew nothing about me, except that Mitchell loved me (and that's pretty much all I need to know about anyone!) It would not be until many years later that she and I would put our timeline together - who saw whom first, first impressions, paths almost crossed, etc. And it was Mitchell (the gossip!!) who told me, "Alex loves your blog, you know." What?? Alexandra Billings?? From Hamlet The musical? She reads me? What the hell??? This was in 2004. Mitchell has a way, too, of bringing people together. He loves to introduce people from 2 different sections of his life, and watch them hit it off. He is the personification of generaosity. Some people are stingy with their friends ... or they want to HOARD their friendships to themselves. Mitchell is the opposite. If Alex and I hit it off to such a degree that I end up traveling to Vegas with her to see Liza Minelli ... Mitchell is not jealous. Or, he's jealous that we're going to see Liza - but he's not jealous that Alex and I have hit it off. On the contrary. He basically jumps up and down in joy when something like that happens. I love that about Mitchell.

I hear that Alex reads my blog. I freak out. Privately. Mitchell tells me about Alex's blog. I begin to read it obsessively. Neither of us comment on each other's blogs yet.

We are stalking each other. I know she reads me, she knows I read her ... but neither of us break the silence yet. It's hysterical, in retrospect. I mean, we ended up storming the $cientomogy castle together in LA ... and here we are being shy and awkward??

Alex finally emails me. And basically declares her undying love.

I email her back. And declare my undying love.

Huge breakthrough: we begin to comment on each other's sites. It's like our intensity for one another can now be admitted, and is out in the open. I am passionate about Alex and she is passionate about me. I LOVE her. I haven't even met her! (Well, not really.) I haven't even mentioned the gourd yet! But it's like we know all we need to know about the other. We are hooked. That's it. We're friends. We haven't even spoken on the phone yet.

7.

In June of 2004, Alex is going to play Bella, in Victory Garden's production of Ulysses. As they begin rehearsal, Alex is like, "What the hell is going on with James Joyce." Oh - and forgot to mention - Mitchell, by this point, lives with Chrisanne and Alex. Mitchell says to her, "You know, Sheila knows a lot about Joyce - you should call her." Now let's remember. Alex is shy. So am I. Neither of us barge into relationships. We are cautious. Our friendships are particular and deep. We choose well! So Alex emails me, wondering if I could de-brief her on Joyce. I say of course! So we set up a date.

I am strangely nervous.

I am about to talk to Alex for the first time!! But ... it's weird ... I feel like I've known her for over a decade.

I call her. She picks up. There she is. There is her voice. We are both so nervous and so pumped to finally be speaking that all we can do is say stuff like, "What. the HELL. is happening ..." or "What. THE FUCK. is going on???" We go back and forth like that for about 15 minutes. We already love each other. It is so freakin' awesome.

And then she quizzes me relentlessly about Joyce. I answer her questions for over an hour. We go through the script, I have my copy of Ulysses with me - she asks questions, I do my best to explain ... we babble about James Joyce forever. In particular, we talk about the Night Town episode - since that's her scene. What is going on there? What is Joyce doing? What the hell is his point? I am obviously passionate about James Joyce, so the opportunity to talk about him like a maniac (and NOT have people roll their eyes) was really special for me.

I still wish I could have seen her do that part. Damn!!

8.

In October of 2004, my friend Kate marries Tim. I am asked to be in the wedding, and I feel very privileged about it. It is such a joyous occasion. Kate is one of my best friends, and Tim is a prince among men. I will be in Chicago for a week, since I'm wedding-party material ... and I am going to stay with Alex, Chrisanne and Mitchell. Now. It is Alex and Chrisanne's condo. Mitchell lives in the guest bedroom. Alex and Chrisanne are true homebodies ... I think if they COULD get away with never ever leaving the house (and still somehow managing to live their dreams?) they would. So to invite someone in - a stranger - even though beloved by Mitchell - and now Alex and I know each other through our blogs ... I know it's a big deal. I know it's not how they normally behave. And so I feel honored ... to be invited in. I am going to be the best guest ever.

I will never forget my moment of arrival. Ever. I'm probably embarrassing Alex with all of this, but whatevs. She can take it. I fly in to O'Hare. For some reason, that month in 2004, I am as broke as I have ever been. I had already bought the ticket ... and spent literally (LITERALLY) my last 100 bucks on the bridesmaid dress which I bought at Filene's Basement. I was concerned that it made me look like Bea Arthur at a Tony Awards ceremony in 1987 ... but I was assured that it did not. But I was scarily broke. Why? I was working ... I don't know ... I just remember being really afraid of being on vacation and having ZERO money. Of course, once I was there - all I did was sit on the couch with Alex and Mitchell (oh yes and Eric!! Eric was staying with them too! Dammit, i forgot to mention that) ... and watch Joan Crawford movies, and eat the sumptuous gourmet dinners that Chrisanne cooked for us. I spent no money. It was the best vacation I had ever had.

But that's a side note. Let me get back to the moment of arrival.

Now, because I'm a bit more financially solvent, I usually take cabs - especially if I am traveling. But in October of 2004, I couldn't. So I hauled ass, with my huge suitcases and duffel bags, to Chrisanne and Alex's, via the El and then the bus. Insane. I struggle down the sidewalk, I find their condo complex. I ring the buzzer. I am beside myself. Mitchell comes down to get me, and help me with my bags. We talk a mile a minute as we galumph up the stairs. I walk into the apartment, and Alex is standing there - in baggy sweatpants, a sweatshirt, a scrunchy on the top of her head - and we stare at each other for a long weird moment (are we going to just cross our arms at each other? And be polite and distant?) - and then suddenly we find ourselves embracing and jumping up and down, screaming and laughing.

Within 15 minutes we were watching Now Voyager.

That week cemented our friendship forever. We sat out on the porch and talked until 4 o'clock in the morning. We laughed so loudly that neighbors complained. We talked and talked and talked ... about movies and life and Liza (I did my imitation of Liza for her on that porch, for the first time) ... Eric was there, Mitchell was there, Chrisanne was there ... but when they went to bed, or were NOT there, Alex and I were ... and we could not stop talking.

A couple highlights:

-- Alex and I, for some reason, told Eric the entire story of the American Revolution, tag-team style. I have no idea how it happened, but it was absolutely brilliant. We should have a television show on the History Channel. It would be epic.

-- We discovered our shared obsession for all things Xenu. We went nuts, and we have never returned. At one point we had the following exchange. We were discussing the moment when Mr. Tom Crooze was squirted with a water gun on the red carpet. We had differing opinions about it. I thought he had handled himself well. Alex bulldozed over me with her own analysis. And here is what happened (and it cannot be explained - I could never explain why this was so funny, but here goes):
Me: "But what was going on with him at that time ---"
Alex: "It was manipulation AT ITS ZENITH!
Brief pause.
Me: (correcting her) "Xe-NU."

Guys? We laughed for (I am not kidding) 45 minutes. At one point, Alex began to crawl away from me, like a scene in Sybil, on her hands and knees, trying to get away from me. This was when the neighbors complained. We were literally HOWLING. HOWLING TO THE DAMN MOON. I cannot explain why the response "Xe-NU" was that funny -but it fucking was ... and it took us days to recover. Days.

Meanwhile, I got to know Chrisanne. She was someone I had gotten glimpses of from Alex's blog - and so I had a little bit of celebrity worship with her, too. I just wanted her to like me. And approve. And I didn't want to intrude or be a bad guest. All of that.

Chrisanne was not there when I first arrived ... but when she did come back, she was a little bit late, because she had stopped off at a second hand bookstore and couldn't stop herself from buying a couple of books about John and Abigail Adams.

Can you say kindred spirit? I know you can.

Chrisanne deserves her own post entirely - but I will respect her privacy and not go there. Suffice it to say, she's an amazing person - and just being in the presence of the two of them together is being in the presence of love un-hindered, openly expressed, no barriers. It's being with love at its purest. It's quite extraordinary.

And so during that week, I raved about Joan Crawford with Alex, and I talked about people like Patrick Henry and John Jay with Chrisanne.

Frankly, I was in heaven.

No going back.

Put a fork in Sheila. She's done.

I'm friends with Alex for life now. That's it.

Xe-NU.

We would go on to have multiple adventures - involving broken-down cars on freeways, e-meters on Hollywood Boulevard, driving across the desert to see Liza Minelli, watching Alex teach her acting class, meeting up with Emily at the race track (a wonderful memory - I'm so glad we did that), watching Liza with a Z with Mitchell and Alex in an apartment on 73rd Street, getting a private tour of the Elron Hubman Life Exhibit in LA (where we said stuff to our cult tour guide like, "So ... is this the thing that John Travolta is into? Wow!!! Okay - go on!" or "So Elron Hubman was the youngest Eagle Scout in the history of Eagle Scouts? Wow!!!" An unforgettable day.), coming across a dead body moments after he was murdered (good times! Alex hissing at me, as I tiptoed along near the bloody corpse in my platform shoes, "Get the FUCK over here!!") ... and then all of our conversations on the phone ... they're always marathons, hours long, and we have to set them up beforehand. I call her, and Alex always answers the phone like this, just like our first time, "What. the HELL. is going on."

I have no idea, but I love it.


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April 25, 2008

Why I love Kate: 2 reasons

A couple nights ago she texts me from backstage, no preamble, even though we haven't spoken in a couple weeks, and even though our lives are erupting into chaos and change - some good, some bad - LOTS of stuff to talk about and cover ... but she breaks our small silence with this:

Sheila, what's the name of the tv movie w/ scott baio as a gay football player? Girls in dressing room want 2 know. Thought u might know.

Now this particular production she is in is NOT a Moliere, so she is not dressed in an ancien regime manner - but still. I love getting texts from her that are totally unrelated to the fact that she is in the middle of doing a performance and about to go onstage and sing ... she texts me about Scott Baio in a glorified Afterschool Special from the 80s.

I text her back: "I have no idea but Mitchell would know!"

Sadly, Mitchell is strolling through the bazaars of Casablanca at this very moment and so is unable to verify Scott Baio's whereabouts in April of 1986.

Then I get a message from her today, again with no preamble - she probably left it while huddled backstage about to go on and have some big emotional scene:

"I just wanted you to know that the name of the movie in question is The Truth About Alex ... and I thought it was with Ralph Macchio - who I know is part of your celebrity crush thing ... but it was Scott Baio. Okay. Hope you're doing okay. Bye."


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April 9, 2008

"I hear ya, troopah! Wipe your wicked ass!"

In honor of Jackie's birthday - which is today: Random quotes, each with a whole story behind it:

-- "Where is the delivery boy with that fabric morgue??"

-- "I had to wear 40 fuckin' corsets on that shoot. 40 fuckin' corsets."

-- "I was married to that Nazi bastid for 30 years and I got NOTHIN'."

-- Tequila shots and Caroline

-- The famous M., my old flame, calls my house - Jackie picks up. What I love about this exchange, is that they just both went with the game. Ba-dum-ching.
Jackie: "Hello. Tony's Pizza Palace."
M.: "I'd like a Sheila to go."
Jackie: "And what would you like on that?"
M.: "Nothing."

-- "Beneath the bad haircut and the 2 dollar jeans beats a heart of gold."

-- "Are those .... your tents? Tell 'em Mrs. Baaaaarney sent ya...... They'll know." (I seriously need to write up the story of Mrs. Barney one day. It is humor on an almost apocalyptic level.)

-- We did a production of My Cup Ranneth Over (excerpt from play here) - one of my favorite college productions I ever did. And, like, 40 people saw it. Major great memories working with Jackie.

-- At an open mike with her in Chicago. We sang as a duo. A fuse blew - and the entire bar was plunged into darkness. We were there with M., my guy - my grumpy curmudgeonly guy. There were all these musicians there, with guitars that needed to be plugged in, the microphones didn't work - no electricity - so the open mike came to a stop - Mayhem ensued. M. yelled thru the dark at the organizer, "Hey, there's an a capella group over here!!!" Being helpful. I had a MAJOR heart-crack. So Jackie and I made our way to the stage - PITCH BLACK - the place was packed - people were still drinking - the cash register happened to be an old-fashionied manual one - so you could hear the pounding of the keys - and Jackie and I sang our entire repertoire, a capella, until the lights came back on. One of the most magical nights of my entire time in Chicago. You could have heard a pin drop in that place while we were singing.

-- Jackie and I worked in a factory after college. We had to be "on the line" at 6 am. Which meant Jackie had to come and pick me up every morning at 5:15. The headlights of her car pulling into the drive. Coffee in the darkness. Grim silence between us. We sat on the assembly line all day. We met up by the lunch truck on our breaks, to commiserate, share our misery. We made references to Officer and a Gentleman to try to lighten the mood.

-- Our Sunday night dates when I first moved to Chicago: We would walk down the street to My Pie (only the "pie" was spelled with the sign for Pi) - and we would have a mug of beer each, and share a pizza. My favorite pizza joint in Chicago. Then we would walk back to her place and pull the TV out of the closet (she kept it in there for the majority of the time) - to watch Life Goes On - a show we were completely addicted to.

-- "He ripped my brown wool leg-wraps."

-- Oh. The carnage we caused.

-- All the men we dated. The HOURS of conversation about them. Meeting up for coffee, or drinks .. to talk about this or that man. Supporting each other. Laughing. Crying. Whatever. Just there for each other. I was there on the day she kind of "discovered" that she loved the man who is now her husband. A magical freezing day. They weren't even dating yet ... but something shifted that day. Something shifted.

-- I sang at their wedding.

-- Jackie and Mitchell came to a Halloween party dressed as Jackie's grandparents, Chester and Millie. (Click below the fold to see the image.) Chester and Millie were FAMOUS to all of us - as well as beloved. That is one of my favorite photos of my friends EVER. TAKEN. There is so much that is delicious about it. Look at the anxiety in Mitchell's eyes. Like ... Chester doesn't know WHAT is going on, and he feels a little bit out of his comfort zone. He is frightened. And look at Jackie's face. Her mouth is open. Her hand pats Chester's arm comfortingly. WHAT IS SHE SAYING TO HIM? It's hilarious. She is so obviously soothing Chester. "It's all right, dear, it's all right ..."

-- There was one infamous day in Chicago when I had double-booked myself. I had a date in the afternoon with one guy, a date in the evening with another guy, and I was stressing out. I was talking with Jackie about it on the phone, and in the middle of the conversation, I got another call and it was a THIRD man calling me up to ask me out for the NEXT day. I am not bragging - seriously, it was actually not even a pleasant experience. I felt like: ARGH, all on one weekend? I don't even LIKE dates!! I hung up with Third Guy and clicked back over to Jackie, and filled her in. "That was Third-Guy. He wants to go out tomorrow." There was a short pause and Jackie said in a flat emotionless voice, "You are a burning icon in the Chicago sky."

-- Photo booth at Lounge Ax - I love that picture of Jackie.


-- One night Jackie and I decided to walk to the beach, in Rhode Island, to see the sunrise. It was a 7 mile walk. This is a story I NEED to write as an essay. It's an entire novel, what happened on that damn walk.

-- We were the first to come upon a drunk driving accident once, on a lonely country road, at midnight. We saw a car on its side. It had obviously been coming from the opposite direction, came into our lane, went up on the field embankment, and flipped. It was freaky to be the first ones there. We clearly heard someone moaning in the car. Jackie went running up to one of the dark houses ... and banged on the door, shouting for them to call for an ambulance. Within minutes, the entire fire department, police department, and EMT staff came screaming out of the country dark.

Jackie and I ended up standing up on a nearby grassy knoll, watching the entire thing. There was a wasted fat gentleman standing up in the car - which was on its side. So he was standing, with his feet on the passenger window, banging against the driver-window which was now above his head. His belly was protruding and hard - a serious beer gut. He looked like he was trapped in a fish tank. He could have not only fucking killed someone, but he could have killed US. If we had come around that corner 15 seconds earlier, he would have smashed right into us. So I have no sympathy for him. He's lucky he's alive. Another car came along, and decided to stop and watch - because the whole road was blocked off. Two really cute and friendly college guys stood and watched, and ended up joining Jackie and I on the grassy knoll. MUCH flirting then occurred. We were shamelessly flirting at the scene of a drunken car accident. Jackie and I roared about this later. The EMTs finally got the guy out of the car - and he put up a struggle - A policeman scolded him, saying, "You need to do what we say, sir." And fat-drunk man uttered these now-mythic words - "I hear ya, trooper!" He said it in a jolly tone, a cooperative tone, a buddy-buddy tone. Also, let's add on the Rhode Island accent. "I heah yah, troopah!" To this day, Jackie and I still use "I heah ya, troopah" in normal everyday conversation. "I mean, I'm just really upset right now ... do you hear what I'm saying?" "I heah yah, troopah."

-- We got to have an enormous stage fight that opened the show of Edwin Drood. I actually got to flip Jackie over a ledge, and she plummeted down through the air. (A mattress was placed at the bottom - out of sight of the audience - for her to land). Can I tell you how fun it was to have a raging FIGHT with Jackie? We rolled down stairs together. We stamped on each other's feet. We shouted obscenities - in thick Cockney accents. We chased each other up and down the aisles. We pulled each other's wigs. It has to be the most fun I've ever had on stage. And the ending was always the best. When I just grabbed onto her (in a highly rehearsed way, of course) and flipped her over the ledge. Also, we were dressed up in mid-19th century Music Hall get-ups - with huge feathers coming out of our heads, and flashy petticoats, and heaving bosoms, and sillks and taffetas - slutty-looking (those Music Hall girls were often prostitutes) and yet - with some of the charm of the era. Not showing EVERYthing. We were circus horses. So the two of us - in our Music Hall outfits, and outlandish makeup - beating the crap up out of each other. GLORIOUS!!!

-- "Jeremy, wipe your wicked ass." No way can I ever explain that quote - give context - how it came about. It is unexplainable. But I am STILL laughing about it. It needs to be said in a nasal priggish voice, vaguely British: "Jeremy, wipe your wicked ass." The words "wicked ass" must be RELISHED, too - give them more emphasis than the other words. You judge the ass as being "wicked" - yet you also find the "wicked"-ness of the ass strangely titillating.

-- "Oo say drak."

-- Morning after a wine-drenched debauched night in college. Jackie, Brooke and I lay in my bed. Aching with our hangovers, not talking, We were HURTING. Jackie slowly opened her eyes, perceived her condition for a silent moment, and then stated, flatly, "You could tap my liver and feed communion to a small Catholic church."


I love you, Jackie!!! Happy birthday!

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Chester and Millie

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March 8, 2008

Places where things happened

Innocuous. But there's a story everywhere I look.

The alley beside my apartment on Wayne Street. My bedroom window is the second one in the line. That's where M. would break into my apartment on a nightly basis.

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The crazy psychedelic walkway at O'Hare. This is where I ran to catch my flight to White Plains, in the middle of a full-blown panic attack. Good times.

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Cafe Avanti, Southport. The congregation point for all of us for a bazillion years. So many memories.

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The spot underneath the L tracks a bit south of Addison where I wiped OUT one crazy night - I was with Jackie and Rob - and we were walking back to my place on Melrose, and suddenly - I tripped over an exposed manhole cover - the sidewalk was being dug up - and I was AIRBORNE. I literally FLEW through the air, and ended up on the ground, literally eating dirt. I am so lucky I didn't knock out my teeth, or puncture my eyeball. It was a wipeout of global proportions. And all I remember is Rob saying, in a British accent, totally deadpan, "Oh, dear lord", and Jackie saying, in a kind of dismayed solemn tone, "Sheila, you're on the ground!"

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The Melrose Diner - corner of Broadway and Melrose. I lived right down the street from that place, and ate there probably 4 times a week. Awesome diner.

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My Pie! Every Sunday, for YEARS, Jackie and I would have dinner at My Pie, and then go back to her place and watch Life Goes On, a show we absolutely adored.

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Improv Olympic. Words cannot express how many adventures I have had in that building. M. worked there, taught there - we would meet up after the place closed, because he had keys - and he would play the piano for me, and we would drink and play cards and make out and watch movies. I also saw a million shows there - or I would meet up with him after his show - but my main memories are of me and M. there, afterhours, hanging out, bringing food in, all the lights off except for maybe one neon beer sign. Magic.

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March 7, 2008

Dear Kelvin: this is for your records:

Yesterday Ann Marie came and picked me up after she was done with work - and we drove to Logan Square where she lives. I got to see her and Rick's house - which was such a treat. Gorgeous!! I fell in love with one suede chair in particular. It was so nice to see Ann Marie in her environment - it's a beautifully done house. Then we drove to a local Mexican restaurant, and had a lovely time, sitting at the bar upstairs, having a little nosh, and catching up like crazy. So much to discuss! From family issues to Project Runway ... we covered it all. We also discussed my blog, in depth - which always just cracks me up. She was like, "So tell me about THIS commenter ... here is what I picture this person is ..." We talked about our jobs, our lives ... it was really wonderful to re-connect with her. She's got one of the best faces I know: kind, funny, beautiful, dimples for days, and she's an awesome listener. One of my dearest friends and I totally don't see her enough. When she dropped me off, I said, "Now remind me - you and Rick are coming to New York soon, right?" "Well, August, actually." "Oh. Okay. That's not soon at all." But still - I hope to be coming back this way soon, it's been really really good for me to be in the bosom of all of these dear friends (not that I don't have dear friends in New York ... but it's been a long time since I've seen Ann Marie - so it was really special to me to see her in her new digs, and hang out.)

Great night! Then I came home and Mitchell and I lay in bed watching Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Tonight? A night out with the gays. But before then? A long walking tour of all my old haunts. To the lake. To Belmont. To Addison and Clark. It's freezing today, but I'm looking forward to my wandering.

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An Andersonville afternoon

It was cold, and the late afternoon light was spectacular. I walked to Kopi Cafe - an old favorite - to meet up with Kate. She and her husband and son live in Andersonville, too - so how cool it is to just walk down the street to meet up with her! She's one of my favorite people on the planet. Mitchell was done with rehearsal and had a couple hours to kill before his evening meeting - so he met up with us, too. It was great. Does my heart so much good.


Kopi Cafe, Clark Street

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Interior of Kopi Cafe

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Mitchell and Kate

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One more view of the Jesus Saves Church (or, as it is also known: The Philadelphia Cream Cheese Church) - lights now on!

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March 5, 2008

Monday night, The Beat Kitchen

Belmont and Damon. Going to see old friend Pat McCurdy play - with Mitchell, Ann Marie, and Rick. I had spent the afternoon downtown at Barney's - with Eric and Michael - Eric did my makeup and then the two of them gave me a ride to Beat Kitchen. On the way there, Eric regaled Michael and me with a bit he and Mitchell came up with - about a small gay Irish boy whose name is Dungaree (what??) - and Dungaree's main love in life is the show Doogie Hauser - and Dungaree's father is a tired defeated vaguely homophobic man, who calls out to his son in the backyard in a thick Irish accent, "Dungaree, come on in the house now ... Doogie Hauser's on ..." If you can imagine the thickest most ridiculous brogue imaginable (Michael, who is Irish, was howling, and saying, "Uhm ... That's really more Scottish than Irish") - then you know what Dungaree's father sounds like. DUNGAREE?? I love my friends. Dungaree?? For God's SAKE. I was laughing so hard I nearly cried my fabulous eyeliner off.

Some photos below. And yes, I took a picture of myself in the basement bathroom mirror. What of it. I wanted to try to capture the makeover magic so I can try to re-create it.

The back room at The Beat Kitchen, before anyone arrived.

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The corridor outside the bathrooms, basement of The Beat Kitchen.

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The bar at The Beat Kitchen

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Reading material and an alcoholic beverage.

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Me. You can't really see Eric's glorious handiwork in the dim light. But that's also part of his genius. You don't look overdone or too made up.

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More of me. You can't really see the EYES which is what was so amazing. Oh well.

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Show's about to start.

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Pat.

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Flashback to the Pre-Paleozoic Age.

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More pre-Paleozoic behavior. Pat looks like a frightening braindead character from Deliverance here. Should Ann Marie and I fear for our lives? Hilarity.

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I'd like you to meet a new friend of mine.

Her name is Lily Pad Thai.


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Side view of Lily Pad Thai.

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February 27, 2008

Delirium

Patrick and myself today:

"I liked the Twizzler dress."
"You just scared me. I had zoned out, and that was like a ZAP."

Later: "TWIZZLER."

"Quizmn! I'm working in Quizmn!"

"Oh for God's sake. It's a novel. Was he born on a cold dark day?"
"THE AIR IS THICK AND STILL."

"Wah wah wah, everything's harder for Sheila than it is for everybody else! I am so sorry. I'm being a baby."
"It's okay. I bitch sometimes, too."

"Damn, Gina!"

"I do not want to hear about the West Nile Virus when I am cooking a sausage."

"Oh FUCK why do you show me the font and the fucking HTML form information - I do not want that! DON'T SHOW IT TO ME. I AM NOT RETARDED."


"Don't mind me. It's just my ADD kicking in."
"I totally understand."

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February 2, 2008

A tour of my bulletin board

An opening-night card from Ted. It's an image of a Joseph Cornell box - one of his scariest, I think.


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A tour of my bulletin board

Note from Michael. He actually pinned it up there himself, the last time he visited - but I just haven't taken it down. It's nice to have the words "Love you" looking at you every time you walk in the kitchen.

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A tour of my bulletin board

Mitchell and me.


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A tour of my bulletin board

The "swann's are beautiful and mean" note from Wade.

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A tour of my bulletin board

The Pat Pass. I can't even begin to explain what this is.

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January 31, 2008

Scenes from a sleepover

Tattooed goddesses getting ready for bed. Cameo by Checkerboard.

Checkerboard is a black and white cloth hippo who has been in our lives, as friends, since we were 10 years old. He originally was Betsy's. He says one thing: "BEP." And sometimes he intersperses "Bep" with his own name. As in: "BEP. CheckerboardBEP." With his huge red-cloth hippo mouth gaping wide. In the month following 9/11 - when all of my friends back in Rhode Island had considered airlifting themselves down into the city in order to extract me from the madness - Betsy decided that I shouldn't have to go it alone. So she gave me a freakin' care package the next time I saw her - a delicate gift bag, with tissue paper emanating from it in a girlie type manner ... I opened it carefully - got one glimpse of Checkerboard - lying in a bed of tissue paper - and nearly LOST it. I have had him ever since - but I think if one of my friends was in dire need I would have to pass Checkerboard along (and you know what, I am now thinking of the radiator that smashed Mere's toe ... and Beth's MS ... perhaps you two could have used a Checkerboard gift bag at that time?) My bad. I promise not to HOARD Checkerboard Bep to myself in the future. In tough times, we all could use a Checkerboard.


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January 27, 2008

What did we do this weekend?

You know, the usual. Spent 5 hours in a tattoo parlor on St. Mark's Place. Tattoos received by all (well, not by me, but then I already have one. Actually, Betsy already has three - but she got another one). I was there for moral support. The rest of the time was spent involving various alcoholic beverages, much conversation, so many blow-up mattresses in my apartment that we could have been airborne with a single gust of wind, my overflowing toilet and Michele suddenly becoming McGyver (in a velvet jacket and silk scarf) fixing it ... and also peeling off the various bandages to stare at and take photos of all of the tattooes.

Oh, and we also partook in a ukelele festival.

So yeah. It was a well-rounded weekend. Thanks, Beans - thanks, Liz - for your awesome tattoo artistry!

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Mere being worked on by "Beans". We loved Beans. He was fascinated by Meredith's half-amputated toe and a little bit in love with it. "This might sound really weird - but can I touch it?" She laughed and said sure, so he gently touched her stub, marveling at it. They had a humorous discussion about painting a fake nail on the "stub" ... and he made her promise that should she ever decide to do it, she would let HIM do it. "Seriously, I would give you a huge deal on the price ... just promise me you'll let me do it." Mere said, "You could add it to your portfolio." "Absolutely!" We loved Beans.

Oh, and Beans - respectfully, declined to do Betsy's tattoo. For the funniest reason!! We were all guffawing about it. "Yeah, Liz can do that one," he said. See if you can guess which one he wouldn't do.



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Browsing. Michele's feet.



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Beth, browsing.




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All my friends belly-up to the counter, browsing.



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Beth getting worked on by Liz. We were like, "How ya doin' Beth?" Beth responds, "It's not as bad as childbirth!" Also, we were reminding each other, "Yeah, so, Beth has MS. I think she can handle a little tattoo needle!!"



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Michele, browsing.

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The walls.

The results! And I've thrown in my almost 20 year old one for good measure:

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January 13, 2008

Last Tuesday night

Presented without further comment, because honestly, it needs no explanation.


His eyeball.


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My eyeball.


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January 10, 2008

Welcome to the Lucy Maud Montgomery Walk-In Clinic

Me: Croup? What the hell IS croup? All I know about it is from books! Like .... (long pause, as I tried to remember the various 'croup' episodes from literature.)
Kate: Anne of Green Gables. I mean, do I need to break out the ipecac?

The second Kate said the word 'ipecac', the whole episode came shrieking back - and I love her for filling in the blanks for me. Of course Kate had to go further and say, "And once I do break out the ipecac, will the snotty Mrs. Barry let me be friends with her beloved daughter again, even though I DID get her drunk on what I thought was raspberry cordial?"

That's a whole post in and of itself. Curing sicknesses through remedies we find in books. Mustard plasters was another big one for LM Montgomery. Wine was a cure-all, as was a bit of brandy. You could set up an entire practice called The Louisa May Alcott Medical Clinic, based on the stuff in her books. Or a Jane Austen Emergency Room. "Hi. I'm feeling very feverish." "Step right this way. One moment, please. I need to prepare the leeches."

Etc.

But the main point of writing this is to say that I love Kate.

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January 3, 2008

Speaking of Chicago: "Oo say Drak."

This story has no meaning or purpose, except that it has been making us laugh for nigh on 5,000 years now.

A bunch of us were sitting on the Fullerton Rocks, staring at downtown Chicago across the sweeping curve of the lake. It was a summery day. We ate ice cream.

The famous "Drake Hotel" stands on the curve of the shore - staring northward - its sign as recognizable as the golden arches. The DRAKE.

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Only on this particular day, the neon "E" in "DRAKE" was out.

And Mitchell said, a propos of nothing, to no one in particular, "There's no 'e'. It says 'DRAK'."

(Okay, see? I'm already laughing out loud ...)

And Jackie turned to Mitchell, shocked, and said, "What???"

It seemed like kind of an odd over-reaction to what was a benign observation from Mitchell. It was as though he had said, "The Drake just exploded into flames."

So Mitchell, confused at her response, repeated slowly, "Uhm ... there's no 'e'. It says 'DRAK'."

Jackie, relieved, said, "I thought you said, 'Ez no-eee. Oo say Drak.' "

What???

We are STILL laughing about this, and 'Ez no-eee. Oo say Drak' is now part of our collective vocabulary. It has also morphed beyond all recognition from the original. It helps if you put on a vaguely Serbo-Croatian dialect when you say it. It also helps if you drop your voice down an octave when you get to the 'Oo say Drak' part, and make everything growly and monotone. Roll that last R. Make your eyes go dead, arch your eyebrows, use a Balkan dialect, and you'll understand where we have gone with "Oo say Drak".

It literally can mean ANYTHING, but we use it mainly as an expression of vague annoyance spiked with worldlywise philosophy.

As in:

"Dammit. The movie's at 7. Stuck in traffic. Oo say Drak."

You need to say it though not in a rage - "Oo say Drak" never expresses rage. It's more of a, "Oh well, it sucks, but what can you do" attitude - very Chekhovian, philosophical, a semi-melancholy Balkan acceptance of the unfairness of life.

You are faced with an enormous traffic jam. You sigh tiredly, shrug hopelessly, and say, "That is how life is. Oo say Drak."

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December 31, 2007

Two examples of friends telling me to shut up

Kate and I were howling about this the other night.

Example 1:

I was babbling at Mitchell about Freedom Jam, and how they came to my high school, and how cool it was, and how Tom Caffey - of said Freedom Jam - found his name on my blog and emailed me 25 years after the fact to thank me for my support. Mitchell and I were driving, in Rhode Island, and I was so excited about this story - and Mitchell listened, silently. Totally supportive and into it, by the way ... but he finally had to speak up. It went like this:

Me: "So ... when I was in high school - a 'rock group' called Freedom Jam came to an assembly and performed - and for a couple days there was Freedom Jam mania in school - I was all about Freedom Jam!! I was so into it! I featured Freedom Jam in a Diary Friday and whaddya know - Tom Caffey, the keyboardist of Freedom Jam emailed me - and he said ..."

Mitchell: (a quick interjection, when he could get a word in edgewise) "Stop saying Freedom Jam."


Example 2.

Talking with Kate the other night, I said the following phrase, "He needs to make an honest woman out of her" about 5 times. In a row. The phrase was included in almost every sentence I said. Kate listened, patiently, totally involved, whatever, but, like Mitchell before her, she had to speak up.

Me: (for the fifth time) "He needs to make an honest woman out of her!"

Kate: "Please don't say that again."


There are probably more examples of this but these are my 2 favorites. I love my friends.

"Stop saying Freedom Jam."

Like - he couldn't bear it. If he heard me say those 2 words one more time, his head was going to explode. Also, he said it so calmly and quietly. Not like he was pleading or exasperated. Just a calm quiet order. "Stop saying Freedom Jam."

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2007 Year in Pictures

Hilarious party in Westchester. Dear friends.

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2007 Year in Pictures

Beth and Mere, a night-swim in Beth's pool

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November 25, 2007

Only connect

An old old old long-lost friend contacted me on Thanksgiving. It's been years. She's been on my mind (our families are intertwined - I know what's going on with her and hers, even when I do not see her) - and obviously the same was true for her. She was my first friend. We became best friends in kindergarten. She had a little brown velvet necklace on, and I asked her what it was called, and she said, making a joke, "A boonga." A totally made-up word. Thank God I got the joke. I thought "boonga" was the funniest thing I had ever heard in my life (gimme a break, I was 5 years old) - and even as we grew up, the humor of "boonga" never left us. A nonsense word. But it can mean so much. And from such an auspicious beginning, years of friendship followed. We drifted apart - and while I have kept in close touch with my core group of high school friends, she and I not so much. We've made inroads over the years - we had dinner once in the late 90s - I ran into her on the sidewalk once - she invited me to her wedding reception, which was wonderful - I went with my parents (like I said: families intertwined) but there was always the ghost of who we used to be, hovering around us. I couldn't bear us to be POLITE. In the intervening years, she has become world-famous. You would know her name. I have walked down the street and seen enormous photos of her in store windows ... two-page spreads in The New York Times ... imagine how odd that is. Her success has been well-deserved. So in a way, I kept in touch with her that way, as well. I followed her trajectory, not surprised at all - but it is, indeed, an odd sensation. You can feel so far away. I have felt, over the last 2 or 3 years, that something might be ready to shift. Beth has felt it, too. She has had a couple of encounters with our old friend - out of the blue, accidental - which has made her feel like: we are reaching out ... all the years in between are meaningless ... what remains is the connection that once was there. It is truly remarkable (and RARE) how that can happen sometimes. She and I talked on the phone, and it was so so good to hear her voice, I have tears in my eyes right now. We caught up a little bit - but not really - it was more about our family situations, I had heard of hers, she had heard of mine (our fathers are good friends and colleagues) - so we got right to it. When we said, "How are you doing?" we really meant it. I could hear her two little children in the background, children I have not yet met. My old friend, dangling on the jungle gym wearing her boonga necklace, has 2 small children. And there was her voice again. She reached out to me. It had to take some guts. Not because there's any animosity there, but because it has been so damn long. Years. Years of silence and nothingness.

We exchanged email addresses.

Thanksgiving. I am thankful that I have lived long enough to move past the anger and bitterness of my younger days. I am angry and bitter about OTHER things, sure ... but not the things from back then. There is such a thing as something happening "too soon". I think, perhaps, when we had dinner 10 years ago - it was "too soon". There was a barrier there. We were, the dreaded word, cordial. It was awful. We couldn't break through.

Now, all of that has washed away.

Leaving just the connection.

And that is something to be truly thankful for.

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November 10, 2007

"Reds" weather

Fall has come. Last weekend I heard the geese leaving town. It's been a long summer. Up until the end of October, we were still up in the high 60s in terms of temperature. I'm still not banking on the change yet ... I still feel that that thermometer might climb ... but it's feeling distinctly fall-ish now. I get to wear my fleece hoodies. And last night I finally broke out "the Nana".

On Wednesday night I had plans to get together with Allison. We were going to hang out at her apartment and watch Away From Her, a movie she had seen and NEEDED me to see.

But back to the weather. Allison had left me a message on Halloween. There was a Halloween festival in her neighborhood, and she wandered through it - looking at the little kids in costume - how cute they were - how much her heart cracked at the earnestness of them - and it was a crisp day, blue-skied, a bit chilly - and she said to me, "It's Reds weather!" I knew exactly what she meant! Allison and I love fall. It's our time, our birthday season - but also, there's something about that shift to chilliness, and grey days, and the turning of the leaves - that make us feel most like ourselves. We now refer to it as "Reds weather". One of the things I love about fall is that it is vaguely melancholy at times - and unlike during the muggy hot months - where everything feels literal and on-point - it feels okay to indulge sometimes in melancholy during the autumn months. You've probably noticed I have a melancholy streak. I'm okay with it, as long as it doesn't take over. In the fall, I feel like I have more space, to let that side of myself breathe, express itself. The bittersweet quality of life, the sensation of time slipping away, the nostalgia for the past ... all of that comes naturally in the fall, and I can even enjoy it if I'm in the right frame of mind. I'm not talking about waking up at 3 a.m. and being confronted by the ghosts of all the things that will now never be. Those moments I could live without. But, as Allison put it in a recent email to me, there's a "fuzzy sentimental melancholy" that can come with "Reds weather" ... and unlike the muggy heat of August, where I feel persecuted by the world, where I have no space for anything because I am just dealing with the unpleasant realities of heat ... Reds weather comes, and I can breathe.

It's great: Kate and I were talking about this once. She feels the same way Allison and I do. Her season is autumn, and I loved how she put it: "There's no irony in the summer."

Yes! That is what I find so torturous about those hot summer months. I can't find my irony. Has anyone seen my irony? A little bit of irony is what makes sadness sweet, rather than just terrible.

Allison and I were set to meet up at the subway stop on the corner of 48th and 6th. It was only 6 pm, but it was already nighttime. I had had a rough day, and was feeling harassed and persecuted. It was also day 1 of ye olde menstruation which just added to the feeling of dread. Later we were laughing - Allison said, "You're the only friend I have where I can invite you to come over and see this really sad movie on the first day of your period and you'd be like: 'YES!'" We stood on the crowded subway, holding onto the grimy poles - we were wearing our sweaters, our cozy clothes - and we caught up with each other, talking a mile a minute. We've both had a rough week. Being with her was like sinking into a warm comfortable blanket. I could give up the persona, the person who's needed to fight with people all week, and defend myself, and be tough and strong ... and just talk about my fears of what's happening, my sense of upheaval, my terrible night of no sleep last week ... and how I'm just trying to stay afloat right now. Just trying to not let the undertow get me. Allison understands. She always does. I also love that we are talking about such things on the F Train as it hurtles southward full of people jostling up against us. Life in New York. Private is public - it's GOTTA be - since the majority of your life here is spent out in public. You can't hold off on having that big conversation until you are in a private space ... because that time may never come. Just have your deep conversation in the midst of a throng, and don't be shy. Nobody cares. They're all having big conversations with each other about life-shattering personal events and no one is paying attention to you. Go for it. Be free!

We got to her place, and were attacked by her joyful dog Oscar, who had felt, during the day, that he would never see Allison again. He loses his MIND when she walks in the door. And Charley the cat lies on a table, belly exposed, staring at all of us with contempt. But then of course I go over to pet him, and he reaches his neck up - butting his head against my hand, a clear message of: More, more, more, more.

Allison took Oscar out for a walk and I did my nightly ritual when I come home, grimy from the day in the city. Wash hands thoroughly, wash face, brush teeth, lotion smeared on, hand sanitizer ... ahhhhhhhh. Despite the crampolas reverb-ing through my body due to it being day 1 - I started to feel like a person again. Then I lay down on Allison's bed, on my back, and that was pretty much my position for the next 3 hours. Allison and Oscar returned. Allison joined me on her bed, we fluffed up pillows, got ourselves arranged - Allison then told me the circumstances around her first viewing of Away From Her (we both share a love for Julie Christie) ... and of course didn't want to tell me too much more about it.

Then we watched it. I was immediately riveted by it. The opening sequence - with the snow and the blinding sun and the couple crosscountry skiing ... it's understated, there's barely any music (one of the great strengths of the film) - and for some reason, you can't look away. It makes a pretty pretty picture, but there's something else going on there, an elegiac echo ... like we are looking at something that has long since past ... Anyway, I'll write more about the film later. It's amazing and I highly recommend it. Sarah Polley, Canadian actress, directed it. She is 28 years old. It's a movie about Alzheimer's ... and is absoslutely devastating. Without any "Lifetime movie of the week" mawkishness. It's based on a short story by Alice Munro - and is apparently a very faithful adaptation (which Polley did herself). Seriously, she's a phenom. 28? Directing THAT? KuDOS, girl, kudos.

It kinda killed me. I was in tears during much of it. Allison and I had a great conversation about it afterwards. What we loved, moments we thought were perfect, scenes, moments, bits ... the state of Canadian filmmaking ... the quality of the acting which is uniformly terrific ... how much we love Julie Christie ... Our conversation segued into a talk about our lives. All good films will usually engender such a response. We talked about growing older, and our fears, and the portrait of love in that film - with all its complexities and betrayal ... The lights were off in Allison's apartment - she had a couple candles lit - the animals snoozed - it was a perfect cave-like atmosphere for truth, and honesty. Sharing. Every time I see Allison it is like we renew our friendship. I am truly grateful for her. I have tears in my eyes. We were talking about love, our love affairs, the men who have hurt us, the men who have touched us - I mentioned this ... it had obviously been on my mind lately, because I had written about it. She knew him, so we talked about it, and what it all meant, what it added up to, the unintended consequences of that night, our reactions to things ... how we think we're affected one way and then we realize, years later, what the REAL impact was ... and I don't know, I got all choked up. If I had let it out, I would have cried all night. That's what it felt like. It wasn't that that anguish had been there all along. I wasn't walking around holding it back ... but it was through our conversation that it started to come up. For both of us, about our own lives.

This is when the "fuzzy sentimental melancholy" can switch - with no warning - to paralyzing sadness. It comes up in the movie too - one of the best lines in the film is hers ... I don't want to give too much away, but basically - something happens during the film which plummets her into an abyss of grief. She cannot get out. She begins to give up, fade away. She lies in bed, paralyzed. She also has Alzheimer's, so nobody is sure what is a symptom, and what is true ... she is moving away. Her husband says to her, gently, "Can't you try to let it go?" She says, "If I let it go, it will only hit me harder when I bump into it again."

God, I know that feeling. God, I do.

I felt as we were talking, in her dimly lit cozy warm apartment, that I was being "hit harder" by something I thought I had let go. I had "bumped into it again", after years of strolling around with no awareness of the loss whatsoever - and it was hitting me harder. I started to feel it again. I was glad I was there with her, and not by myself. I cannot stand when loss ambushes me, years after the fact. I feel I have no protection against such ambushes. I have done my best at letting things go. But nothing is ever gone forever.

And then came the miracle. At Allison's suggestion, we got up and left the apartment and went across the street to the Irish pub we frequent (that's where I won the Oscar pool. It's also owned by the dude whose mother we stayed with when we went to Dublin. So going there is like going to someone's HOUSE where we know everyone). It wasn't packed, it was about 9:30 or so ... and we sat at the bar, and we were out in public, and we talked more about the movie, and we talked about Katharine Hepburn, and books we're reading ... we laughed hysterically ... there was one moment where Allison said, suddenly, "I'm so glad we're friends, Sheila" and then we were hugging, I feel the same way.

The piercing sadness we both were tiptoeing towards - in her dark apartment - or the sadness that was tiptoeing towards us ... diminished, dissolved ... once we were out. It's still there, it'll always be there, it's part of our lives ... but in changing the venue - we got a bit ahead of it. It was a great choice. We somehow let it ricochet off us. I might not have slept that night if we had continued on in that original vein. I never feel judged for being sad by Allison - we're not "sob sisters" either - that's not our thing - it's a completely three-dimensional friendship ... but i certainly feel safe with her. To be wherever I'm at.

And so I went home that night, peaceful, and content. And aware, above all, of how lucky I am to know her.

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October 28, 2007

Great night

-- Party up in Westchester at my friend and agent's house. It was her birthday.

-- I drove, yo!!

-- Picked up Jen - which meant I had to drive into Manhattan - my first trip (I mean, I've driven in New York before, but years ago) - and it was hysterical. LIke: UTTER. MADNESS. Of course I come out of the Lincoln Tunnel - and had to deal with the traffic swirl around Port Authority and then 8th Avenue ... The main thing to remember is that the lines painted on the avenues to delineate lanes are merely suggestions. There really ARE no lanes.

-- Off we went. Up the Saw Mill Parkway.

-- An hour out of the city - in the darkness and beauty of Westchester. The moon was so beautiful that I had to avoid looking at it because I thought I might drive off the road in ecstasy. Huge, glowing, golden - with mountains and valleys clearly seen from Planet Earth.

-- Jen and I haven't seen each other in a while (I haven't seen most of my friends in a while!! It's been a crazy month) - so we caught up on her trip to Dallas, her film, my trip to Taos, Dean Stockwell saying, "Hit the button eeasy ...", my new car, my writing, her teaching, the men in our lives, and basically life in general. All the while: LOOK AT ME DRIVING, YO.

-- You can't park in Barbara's driveway - because it's too short, and the road has no shoulder ... so she had arranged for us who were commuting up from the city to park our cars in an empty lot across from a church - and she had a huge limo/van service shuttle people back and forth the entire night. People were taking the Metro North up, too, from the city - so he also was engaged to go pick people up at the trains, etc. So Jen and I successfully find, in the middle of nowhere, the empty lot. It was a chilly autumn night. We had to just stand there and wait for the limo dude. It was night. Across the lot was a white picket fence and beyond it was an old country cemetery. It was so beautiful to be out in nature, especially with that spectacular moon soaring over everything! Jen and I spent our time waiting howling with laughter about our voice class, and our crazy wonderful teacher Nova - who has to be experienced to be believed. Snapping at a fellow student, in her operatic Southern accent: "Kara, you are gonna stop your whirlin' and you're gonna stop your twirlin'. That is not work, that is a nervous breakdown!"

-- A couple other cars pulled up - obviously Manhattanites who were also going to Barbara's party. Then finally: the huge van shows up. In we all get and off to the party.

-- Barbara and Dana (her husband) have a gorgeous house surrounded by woods. Jack-o-lanters glimmered on the front porch. The party was already raging - and we walked into the warmest most wonderful atmosphere possible. Barbara - her hair platinum, long, fantastic - was greeting everyone - we were all just laughing and hugging - so excited! There was so much booze that it looked like a high school kegger. Barbara had put up signs everywhere: COATS THIS WAY. BEER IN FRIDGE. On the table was a huge spread of food. Also with signs: CHOCOLATE IS TOXIC TO DOGS. Molly (the dog) with an adorable yellow kerchief around her neck strolled around the party, padding by on her big fat paws, on a mission to eat anything that dropped from anyone's plate ANYWHERE. But remember: chocolate is toxic to dogs!!

-- Barbara is the kind of person who has dear friends from every phase of her life. There were people there who knew her when she was 6. Her childhood piano teacher was there. Her friends from publishing were there. Her actor friends were there. Her friends from church were there. I love people who maintain connections like that. I am similar ... and I feel really grateful. It's the old old friends who really have your back, who you never have to explain things to ... They're just THERE.

-- Barbara said to me and Jen, "There's someone in the living room you're going to want to see."

-- We made our way over there - and were absolutely GOBSMACKED - to see Shelagh standing there. Shelagh: who lives in Canada, one of my dearest friends ... Shelagh, whom I have to accept that I am only going to see once a year, IF THAT. Shelagh: who was supposed to be teaching in Canada at this very moment!! And yet: here she is! She had flown in - and asked Barbara to keep it a secret. Jen and I were out of our minds. WHAT? What are you DOING HERE????? It was so freakin' exciting!!! What a treat. I last saw Shelagh in May, I think ... she came to New York for a couple of days ... Anyway, it was SUCH a surprise - I am amazed at how well the secret was kept, and it just made the night. I mean, it would have been awesome anyway - but to get to spend a couple of hours with Shelagh was just so awesome. We were chatterbox motormouths - we sat on the stairway with our plates of food and drinks - and caught up like maniacs. I love Shelagh. God. Great great to actually SEE her.

-- There was a couple there who had been in a 5 car "pileup" on the damn Saw Mill Parkway on their way to the party. Some little old man had entered the parkway going south on the north side of the parkway. Terrifying. No one was seriously hurt - although 5 cars were pretty much totalled. And they still were at the party. I loved this woman - she was Miss Party Trick - and kept showing everyone all these crazy things - "Put two corks in your hand like this ... then go like this ... the trick is to switch the corks without having to blah blah blah ..." So at times you'd look around and see 15 people, in the kitchen, maneuvering corks through their twisted-up hands. It was awesome.

-- We drove back to the city eventually - Shelagh was staying in a B&B in the heart of Times Square - so she caught a ride back with us, which again - was such a treat!! We careened down the Saw Mill Parkway (having visions of the 5 car pileup floating through our brains) - catching up, gossiping, telling stories, reminiscing. And along the side of the Parkway - the entire way down - we saw probably, all told, 30 deer. They were everywhere. Huge groups of them, some of them were by themselves, some were nearly on the road - which was scary - but it was quite amazing to see. We were "over" them after about 10 minutes - because there were so many of them.

-- Oh, and I gotta give the props to Jen: who was "navigator". As Allison and I discovered on our trip to Ireland, it is extremely important to have a driver and a navigator. The driver must focus on her job. The navigator must calmly and unemotionally tell the driver what to do next. The navigator must never panic. Jen - who grew up in Westchester - and knows all of those parkways like the back of her hand - just let me know, calmly, "Okay, you're gonna want to get in the right lane soon ..." etc. Much appreciated. But all told: I was proud of my mad driving skillz.

-- Dropped Jen off, then dropped Shelagh off - but of course we had to sit in the car for a while, really catching up. God, God, it was so good to see her!!!!

-- Then, of course, after dropping her off - I thought: "Okay, I'll just go to the end of the block, take a right ... and make my way back to the Lincoln Tunnel." It was 1:30 in the morning. This meant I found myself smack-dab in the middle of Times Square ... which I perhaps would have wanted to save for when I am more at ease with the mad driving skillz - but there I was - nothing to do now but figure it out. The mayhem is difficult to describe. The crowds - the double parked cabs and limos - the pedestrians ruling the roost, the horse and buggies, the bikes, the throngs - My GOD, what a sight!! (Photo below) I remained calm, and got out of there as quickly as I could. Back to the Lincoln Tunnel, and finally back home.

-- I love my car.

-- Awesome night.

DSC03926.JPG

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October 25, 2007

A messenger from the ancien régime

It was about 10 pm my time last night when my phone rang. It was Kate. I immediately was confused: "Wait a sec ... doesn't she have a show?" It was 8 pm where she was ... so twas a huge mystery. If she calls me at 8 pm on a MONDAY, then I am not confused because that is actors day off. But last night? I answered.

"Don't you have a show tonight??"

"Oh. Yes. I'm backstage right now, in between scenes."

She's doing a Moliere production so the picture of her, backstage, in her costume, calling me, was deliciously funny to me.

"Please tell me what you are wearing right now."

"Well, I gotta admit that I am a little bit ancien régime."

I started guffawing. Say no more, Kate, say no more.

"I am wearing a corset and a wig."

"Is it blonde?"

"No. Brunette, with long side curls."

"Do you have a decadent beauty mark??"

"No, but you know what? I really should."

She was sitting in the small kitchen/lounge backstage - dressed like that - calling me in her free time. I want a photograph of that. Also the fact that she just casually referenced "ancien régime" ... For some reason, that's one of our jokes: Who can say "ancien régime" in the most casual over-it way, and work it into a sentence. It's quite a fun game. I highly recommend it.

Her husband is in the same show - so I asked, "Where is he??"

"Oh - he's stage left, waiting to make his entrance."

I don't know why this entire scenario pleased me so much, but it did. I was still laughing when we finally hung up the phone. We blabbed on, about our lives - a feverish catching up - and out of nowhere, she says, in an overtly calm yet totally panicked voice, "I have to go now."

"BYE." I shouted and hung up.

Had she misjudged how much time she had? Did she miss an entrance? Will we ever know?

I can't get the image out of my mind of my dear friend Kate dressed like this:

chemiseancienregime.jpg

... talking to me on her cell phone backstage .

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October 18, 2007

Rumspringa

David and I got together last night. In the middle of this Red Sox week it was the only night we could manage it. I think we're going to get together tonight to see the game as well.

Intensely awesome conversation. I was SHOUTING at one point about Dickens. Literally: SHOUTING.

But David shouted too at some points. He shouted about physics and spirituality.

Then we spoke in normal voices.

Then we started SHOUTING again.

We talked about the Red Sox, and James Baldwin, and Paul Ekman, and education, and Dean Stockwell, and me and men, and Mitchell, and singing the blues, and Richard Powers (GOLDBUG VARIATIONS), and the South Beach Diet, and Bruce Springsteen, and being sensitive, and my car, and family, and we listed our 10 Favorite Books at that very moment, and we talked about God, and perception, and Flynn (who is now in Europe, DAMN HIM), and our friends, and Wade, and Taos, and marriage, and kids, and education ... It was great. Great great stuff.

Our rumspringa. Which we haven't done in a long while!

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The gentleness of strangers

I was talking with Wade about fist fights. I asked him about fights he had been in, and how that dynamic works between men. It was a fascinating conversation. He told me some stories about fights and confrontations he had had - some violent, others just unpleasant - you know, your basic rams head-butting each other in the fields type of behavior. Here is my favorite:

He was at a bar and he stepped outside to have a cigarette. A dude was sitting there on a bench. He had a tweed jacket on, a young guy. Wade's hair is thinning on top, just so you know. And for whatever reason, the guy on the bench had some sort of reaction to Wade - a testosterone-fueled aggressive reaction. And he snarked, "Nice hair."

Wade was dumbstruck. What did you just say to me??? Like: a random mean comment like that is code for: PLEASE. I BEG OF YOU. KICK MY ASS FOR ME.

Rage came up in Wade. He said, "What??"

The guy repeated it. "Nice hair."

And instead of beating the guy to a pulp, instead of punching him in the nose - Wade, still in that state of rage, said to the guy, angry, "Dude! You need to be GENTLE with people!" It just came out of his mouth. He wasn't less angry. But he basically SCHOOLED the guy. Dude! You can't just say crap like that. You need to be GENTLE.

The best part of this whole story is that Wade's comment turned the whole thing around. It was as THOUGH Wade had punched the guy. He actually blinked a couple of times, startled ... as the comment landed within him.

"Wow, man, I'm sorry ... I'm really sorry ... just having a bad day ... I don't know why I said that ..."

Like, he was all discombobbled ... and Wade said, "It's cool, man, whatever ... you just need to be gentle with people."

The entire exchange ended with the tweed-jacket dude telling Wade his whole life story and showing him pictures of his art on his blackberry. "See ... these are my paintings ... " Wade looking on, nodding, talking with him about art.

I was howling as he told me the story.

I am totally going to remember that and use it myself.

Dude. You need to be GENTLE.


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October 10, 2007

In praise of Stevie

-- Stevie picked me up at the airport in his light-green VW Beetle. We were both screaming and laughing - to finally meet!!

-- Stevie made me a Scotch and soda within 2 seconds of me walking into his apartment.

-- Stevie's living room is a calm peaceful place with the most awesome couch known to man.

-- Stevie has a cat named Big Guy (or BG) who is so shy that he stayed under the bed for the entire time I was there. On my last night in New Mexico, Stevie and I were watching a movie in the living room when suddenly ... miracle ... BG made an appearance. He strolled around the room, slowly, never taking his eyes off of me. Then he skulked off into obscurity again. I love BG!

-- Stevie had stocked up on 3 Netflix movies - movies he knew I had never seen. Now how sweet and amazing is that?? So we had a wonderful time. We watched Dead Ringer with Bette Davis, Mildred Pierce and It Should Happen To You.

-- We sat out on his amazing balcony and talked about everything under the sun.

-- Oh, and back to the movies: I had never seen Mildred Pierce, something which is shocking and, on some level, (according to Mitchell and Alex) unforgivable. So we settle in excitedly. The movie starts - I see the Warner Bros. logo - and then had to say, "Wait wait wait - pause!!!" Stevie paused. I said, "I need the context behind the movie. What was going on with Joan at this point in her life ... what did this part mean to her ... what are the larger swirling issues of her career?" The beautiful thing was that Stevie immediately launched into a long detailed treatise about Crawford's trajectory, and what Mildred Pierce did for her. Genius. It helps to know the backstory.

-- We had a scary moment when we thought a tread had fallen off the tire. We were driving through mountains - with 100 mile vistas off on every side - with literally no street signs, no towns, no gas stations, nothing. We were afraid to even pull over. Eventually ... when we reached the first "town" - which was basically a cafe and a hot springs spa ... we pulled over, only to find that the tires were fine. But it was pretty hairy there for about half an hour, as we slowed down, looking at the nothingness around us and wondering: Okay. If our tire explodes ... what next??

-- Stevie can talk to anybody. He's open, he's friendly, he's intelligent - he meets people on their level, and people just open up to him. We met so many nice people along the way.

-- I have been corresponding with Stevie for 3 years now. His comments on my site have always been intelligent, passionate, interesting - I love his eye for things, his love of detail. It was a total pleasure meeting him. It was also, in a funny way, like no big deal. I have never "met" him ... but I had MET him, if you know what I mean - I have lots of Internet friends like that ... so when we were finally in each other's presence it was like: Hi you! I know you! How great it is to see you in person!!

-- See what I mean about his wonderful-ness?

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October 3, 2007

who's that lady?

I used to doodle in the margins of my notebooks endlessly. I always drew the same things: luscious women in profile - they always had beauty marks and sunglasses and lipstick and crazy hair ... I don't know why I drew them - but whenever I was bored in class, or had a bit of free time ... out would come the ladies. Over and over and over and over. So I've got notes on theatre history, and the burning of the Globe, and Moliere's career, and the theatrical theories of Antonin Artaud ... and all along the edges are ladies in profile. It was mostly unconscious - just something I liked to draw.

10 years ago. In class.

Wade asked, out of the blue, "So, darlin'. Who's that lady?"

"What lady?"

He looked at me like I was stupid. "Your lady."

"Huh?"

He gestured at my notebook where I saw 300 ladies in profile, crawling through the margins.

Even back then I loved that he didn't say "why do you draw that lady?" Or "Nice doodles". He asked, "Who's that lady?"

"She's nobody," I answered. "I like drawing ladies, I guess."

"Uh-huh." He rolled his eyes at my insistence on it having NO meaning.

I glanced at Wade's notebook and saw a drawing he had done. It looked like a medieval woodcut. A man's face, looking straight at us - with lines etched into his cheeks - over and over and over ... and deep dark circles under his eyes - the circles undulating outward, over his whole face. I had noticed that drawing in Wade's notebook before. It was his version of my "lady".

"So," I said, in a challenging voice. "Who's THAT?" Thinking I would catch him out, make him stumble in his certainty.

He said calmly, "I'm drawing myself."

Needless to say, Wade did not look like a medieval woodcut with etched-in circles and frown lines. But it was his doodle, his ruminative way to spend time when he was bored or distracted.

"Oh." I said, and I looked back at the proliferating ladies on my page. Some had curly hair. Some had blunt asymmetrical cuts. Most of them had barrettes. Some had shaved heads and cat-eye glasses. Some were blonde, others raven-black. All were in profile. Some had Roman noses, some had button noses ... some were obviously ready for the runway, others would be more at home in a lecture hall.

For the first time I asked myself, "Who the hell IS that?"

I had been drawing her since I was in high school. It seemed to me that they were all different people. But Wade seemed to think otherwise.

Class was about to start, and Wade said, in a tired "Okay, I'll give you the answer, Sheila" voice, "You're drawing yourself, Sheila. All the different sides of you."

"No. I don't think so."

"Sheila. Gimme a break."

"These girls are glamour girls."

A resounding silence greeted my comment. Wade looked at me. Shook his head at my stupidity.

"I'm not a glamour girl."

"Whatever, darlin'."

"You're not a medieval woodcut."

"But it's what I see, what I feel like."

I was in an anti-beauty period in my life. No makeup, I had short hair, I wore flannel, jeans, and clogs. I did not have a beauty mark, I did not wear lipstick, I did not have a flaming mane of curly hair. But it seemed to me that Wade might be onto something.

Who's that lady?

Two days ago, after years of no contact - he texts me. "I was just thinking about you the other day, weirdly. I was thinking about those lady doodles you did and how cool they were and what they represented."

I'm not sure what it is about being remembered ... about having specifics about me withstand a decade ... but all I know is it made me so happy he remembered.

I don't draw those ladies anymore. I wonder why. Maybe Wade will know.

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October 1, 2007

Reconnection

Recently I wrote about my old friend Wade here - included in a Diary Friday post And I posted a "Wade montage" of photos too, in the wake of that Diary Friday. Wade and I were best buds. With benefits. I cannot imagine my grad school experience without him. We got TO it, man!! The intensity of that cloistered atmosphere certainly had something to do with the depth of our friendship - I saw him every day - and after school ended, I would see him here and there - he worked as a bartender at Puck Fair and I would stop by ... but, you know, it faded away. Sometimes people fade away and you don't realize how much you miss them until much later. We never had a falling out. It's just that stupid thing that happens sometimes. You lose touch. The last time I saw Wade was in 2003. That's too long. I still had a number for him - wondered if it was still valid - so yesterday I texted him. "Wade? It's your old friend Sheila! Can we get together and reconnect?" Within half an hour, he texted me back - and my heart leapt with joy - LEAPT! "Definitely!" We texted back and forth for a while - in the sort of blunt no-nonsense language that that medium demands - it was perfect. No social niceties (he and I never had them - it's like we became friends on sight - and it was one of those friendships where lying just never happened. Not even LITTLE lies. Like when he would ask, "How are you today?" he really wanted to know the real answer, not the socially acceptable, "I'm fine.") So within 2 seconds of texting - I said something self-deprecating about my texting skills - and he fires back: "Don't say you're terrible at texting. Get out of your way." Wade!! We have a date for a couple weeks from now and I cannot WAIT to see him. I took a walk to the deli after re-connecting with Wade, and the sky was high-flung and blue, with puffy clouds - the Hudson gleamed a deep dark blue - and you could feel the fall in the air. It's not quite chilly yet - but there's a crisp edge to the wind that tells you what is coming. Also the sidewalks are littered with fallen chestnuts. It's almost here. And as I walked, my heart just sang - because of Wade, and the feeling you get when you re-connect to someone who had once been so essential, except you forgot. You were ABLE to live without the person ... but what a space he left! I also was pierced with the poignancy of our conversation - and how, after so many years, he went right back into my bullshit with me - like he always used to do. "Get out of your way." Only truly good friends can do that. You have to EARN the right to talk to someone like that - but once you have earned the right, you have it forever. And it just made me so happy. It made me feel known. And remembered. I know that I am specific to Wade. Like he is specific to me. And sometimes in this life - which can get lonely and hard - things start to feel very general. You start to forget that you are a specific person, and not a type. This sensation of feeling specific comes with all of my good friends - who are in my life on a regular basis - but when I re-connect with someone from my past ... who remembers me ... and not just who I was to them, or my name ... but ME. The Sheila-ness. Like when Michael came and stayed with me and we had the whole crossing-the-street together behavior that we had so many years ago when we were dating. The fact that I always used to, in Wade's estimation, "get in my own way" with my self-deprecation. He always just wanted me to admit and deal with the fact that I was awesome, and beautiful. He never ever let me get away with casual self-deprecation. He called me on my shit. He didn't "go there" with me. There is the whole story of my teeth - which I think I have also shared here on the blog in some Diary Friday or other. I still have the note he wrote to me about my teeth pinned up on my bulletin board - spelling errors and all. It's one of my favorite possessions - and every time I look at it, I remember ... not just the event of him passing me that note in some class ... but I remember what it meant and still means. It is a reminder. It jolts me out of complacency. It is a gift.

Wade and I were laughing about something, and I kept covering my mouth when I laughed. Wade, of the Eagle Eyes, asked, "Why do you always cover your mouth when you laugh? You shouldn't. You have a great smile, great teeth." He was always jujitsuing me with observations like that. I had never thought about my teeth, and I had never noticed I habitually covered my mouth when I laughed. I said, "I don't know. Do I cover my mouth when I laugh?" "Yeah, you do."

So I kind of thought about it all afternoon. I suddenly noticed when I laughed - how my hand would fly up to cover my mouth. And I was like: WHY? Why do I do that?? Wade had such a good eye. He was detached, a true observer.

I saw Wade later in a history class. We always sat together. Which was probably a mistake because we found each other very distracting. I said to him, "I think I know why I cover my mouth. I had horrible teeth when I was a kid - going to junior high - and I got braces put on - and I wore them for 4 years!! I had braces for 4 years. Obviously I never felt pretty - I'm not sure I would have felt pretty anyway - but having a mouth full of metal made it worse. I'm not sure if that's what it is - but I think maybe it is."

He just listened. He hadn't asked me "why" because he felt he knew the answer. I wasn't presenting my "theory" to him, like: "what do you think?" Because, after all, he is not me. My life is not his. He wasn't judging. Just noticing, and calling a gesture to my attention - saying, in a sense, "Maybe you need to investigate?"

I told Wade about the braces - he didn't say anything - and then class started. Obviously his mind was tick-tick-ticking away, and he passed me a note. (Please picture him, too, wearing his Stetson and cowboy boots, writing me this note.) I still have it. It's on my bulletin board right now. In it is LOVE. And a message I need to remember over and over again. I never fully learn it - it's all a process.

He wrote:

That explains a whole lot. ie. About your mouth. You have beautiful teeth. It's muscle memory. You may have been an ugly duckling. You're now a swan. Swans are beautiful and mean.

I cannot explain how great this note is - especially the mean part. It's so unexpected. It's so RIGHT. To just say swans are beautiful is to miss his message. The message is that they are not NICE, they are MEAN.

I can honestly say that I probably look at that note, on average, once or twice a week. I don't ruminate on it, or ponder it ... it's just there ... a reminder of soul-growth, and also - to just own who I am. Because we only have one life.

Swans are beautiful and mean.

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September 25, 2007

Back by popular demand ... the Phys. Wrecks!!

... or if not by "popular demand" but because I just, randomly, heard from Anne - an old friend from high school, a good good friend once upon a time ... and whaddya know, she Googled something, came upon my blog, and emailed me. I love my life sometimes.

When I was a senior in high school, the girls basketball team (many of the players were good friends of mine) started kicking some SERIOUS ASS. There were sisters on the team - unbelievable girls and unbelievable athletes - and they became Rhode Island stars for a couple seasons. They both were toweringly tall, and incredible on the court. They were referred to as "the twin towers".

I went to a big sports school. A typical public school. We had massive pep rallies for the football team, we had a fierce and ugly rivalry with the team from the neighboring town ... our school was pretty much all about football. (Although the guys who played on our soccer team were pretty much universally lusted after by the girl population in our school. There was always something cool and kind of hot about soccer players. Even before Posh & Becks, thank you very much.) Our boy's basketball team also got a lot of attention ... the games were always packed.

But girls sports? Not so much. Nobody gave a shit about girls sports. There were no pep rallies for the girls basketball team - even though they were, during my senior year, the most successful sports team in our school. (If you really think how obvious and blatant that bias is, it's really shocking. Unbelievable.) Our girls team were going to go to the state championships, probably. And yet ... no glory. The school didn't get behind them - at least not in the way the school typically did for football.

Our champions were having a great season - pretty much unnoticed by the school at large.

And of course - the football team and the boys basketball team had their own cheerleading squads. Teams of girls chosen SPECIFICALLY to cheer on the boys. Fair enough. Tradition and all that.

What I love about this story is that we (my friends) recognized the injustice in the situation - but we didn't write letters to The Rebellion (the school newspaper) - bemoaning the lack of support for girls. We didn't write letters to the Principal, pointing out the sexism in the fact that BOYS teams got pep rallies before a big game ... but GIRLS teams did not. No. We didn't use those normal attention-getting tactics. We did not attack. We didn't ask anyone in authority to fix the situation.

But mark my words. We were pissed.

So what did we do? We took the situation into our own hands. We formed a cheerleading squad. For the girls basketball team.

We didn't clear it with anyone. We didn't ask permission. We just did it.

My friend Anne was the main organizer and the brains behind the idea. Now please understand: None of us were cheerleaders. At least not by trade. We were not gymnasts. We were not dancers. We were not girlie-girls. We did not KNOW ANY CHEERS.

So we conceived of ourselves as: a kind of dark goofy version of a cheerleader. We had passion for our team, we didn't snark about THAT ... but the entire thing, our routines (that we made up) - was about making fun (subtle fun - not mean fun) of the instituion of cheerleading, in general. The institution of cheering for the boys. And how odd it was (and how ODD that it was ODD) to have GIRLS cheering for GIRLS.

But we took ourselves seriously. We had cheerleader practice. We made up cheers. We made fun of regular cheerleader cheers - making up our own versions. We did messy somersaults, but then leapt to our feet, and took a cheerleader pose to finish off the cheer. We were snarky. We were comedic. We imitated regular cheerleaders, but because we so obviously were not real cheerleaders - people would howl with laughter when they saw us. Sometimes that laughter would be mean. More often than not, though - people got the joke, and got into the spirit of what we were trying to do.

We did not give a shit what we looked like. We gloried in our own goofiness.

Our uniform was:

1. Grey sweatshirts
2. Men's boxer shorts
3. Hi-top sneakers

And our name?

The Phys. Wrecks.

Within a couple of weeks of us cheering at the girls games (and I'm not kidding about this - this is one of the accomplishments that I'm proudest of in high school) - the crowds started to grow, at the girls basketball games. We had pumped people up. We did goofy cheers in the cafeteria during school lunches - we manufactured a pep rally since the school wouldn't have an official one - and got people to come to the game. Soon - the bleachers were full to overflow at every game.

And one of our greatest triumphs was that the boys from other sports teams - football players, basketball players, soccer players ... started coming to the girls games. They started to take an interest. They came en masse - huge groups of rowdy jock high school boys - to scream like maniacs for the girls from their school. Unprecedented.

God. That was a proud moment.

And we did it without hectoring the administration, or scolding the boys. We just pumped up the enthusiasm and let people know: Our girls are rocking the house this year!!

I loved, too, how much the boys sports teams LOVED US. They had their own cheerleader squads. They had girls cheering specifically for them, in little flaired skirts, and saddle shoes, and letter sweaters. But they seemed relatively indifferent to them. Oh, they dated them ... probably slept with many of them too .. but with us it was different. They LOVED us.

It was extraordinary ... those guys just LOVED us. After each cheer, they would all hold up numbers to us - as though they were Olympic judges. (The image of them MAKING those flash cards with all the different numbers is truly heart-cracking). We'd finish some goofball cheer, where we did a fake pyramid, or we would all do somersaults in a row - you could hear the waves of laughter erupting across the gym - and we'd finish our cheer - and glance up in the stands at all the jock boys to see what score they would give us.

It was such camaraderie. Such good-natured comedy.

That was what the Phys. Wrecks made possible. In a weird way, the Phys. Wrecks brought the school together. Because the girls teams are, after all, PART of the school. And we forced everybody to deal with that - but we did it in a way that was enthusiastic, comedic, and inclusive.

It was a blast - one of my great high school moments.

Photos below.

Here is our "pyramid" for the yearbook photo. I ruined the symmetry with my mis-placed arms. But that was all part of the Phys. Wrecks charm, I suppose.

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We showed great versatility:

We cheered!

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We clapped!

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We rabble-roused!

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We did stunts that took people's breath away - just in terms of the sheer virtuosity and courageous gymnastic skill we displayed.

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We DEMANDED loyalty from the school.

Come on, people, cheer for your team ...


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Ohhhh, come ON!!!

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We also were not above manipulation. We PLEADED with the school to support their own team.

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Please, sir, I want some ...


more???

And ... of course ... When our team won ... as they so often did ...

There really was no other appropriate way for me to express myself than this pose (which, I have to say, in all modesty - I executed with perfection):

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Gooooooo, team!!

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September 9, 2007

Perchance to dream

Sleep issues these days.

It was 12:30 last night - which is kind of late for me - especially because I had only 1 or 2 hours of sleep the night before - maybe 3 or 4 hours the night before that - and that horrible dream earlier this week that messed me up - and my mind was racing and I started to get that insomniac circle-of-hell THING ... which any insomniac will understand. You need to sleep. But sleep eludes. So You obsess on sleep. You worry about NOT being able to GO to sleep. And worry increases exponentially and then you are in a panic about NOT sleeping ... and nothing kills the sleep impulse like panic. So things just keep spiralling until, if you're not careful, you can get into trouble. I got in trouble with insomnia in 2002 - I had never had it before - had never really understood what it was like until then. I had read so much about classic insomniacs - like Marilyn Monroe - and my sleep patterns are such that when I'm out? I'm OUT. God help me if there's a fire. I'll sleep right through it. It's hard to understand that insomniac THING until you experience it. And 2002 was such a horror it's impressed upon me a couple of things: -- true GRATITUDE towards being able to get a good night's sleep - and sympathy towards those who struggle with it. And it's also given me a sort of panic about ever going through that again. It's strange, it left quite an impact. I have one night of strugging to go to sleep, and I think, scared, "God. Please don't let it be like 2002 again." Dumb. But hey, it's what happens.

I know the insomnia will pass - but so much of this is a mental issue - and we NEED sleep - I remember 2002, I remember when I could not sleep ... for weeks ... A greyness settled over the whole world from about April to August. That was what it felt like when I was struggling. I'm just wired right now - and it's just an interesting thing to take note of, I suppose. A lot is going on right now. I talked with Kate for a long time last night and told her about the dream. She was terrific, as she always is. I have tears in my eyes. I love her. She was right there with me, and really gave me some perspective on it. Cobwebs cleared. Eventually I got into bed and could feel that insomniac thing start to happen. No panic yet - just that consciousness, "Will I get a good night's sleep tonight?" - that can so quickly spiral into a swarm of bees inside your head.

So it was about 12:30 last night and I had been lying there for, oh, 20 minutes - which is a long time for me - normally I am OUT ... so I was starting to get worried. Because I'm already behind on sleep. (Sorry my writing is bad today. I don't care, this is my version of a diary entry ... but sorry anyway) and my phone rang. It was someone I had called earlier in the day, a friend, and he called me back. I wasn't in the mood to chat - at least not casually - I was too focused on "must. sleep. must. sleep." ... and he must have heard that in my voice - and he took a very gentle tone with me - almost hypnotic - "Did I wake you, honey?" - "No. No. I'm awake unfortunately." And I'm still not sure how it happened, I'm honestly not - but he talked to me until I fell asleep. I fell asleep with the phone in my hand. He has an accent, a soft Caribbean accent, and he was just telling me about this job fair thing he was doing, and also a new computer he wanted to buy ... and next thing I knew it was 10 a.m. this morning. Seriously - next thing I knew! I have no memory of WHEN I fell asleep. I have no memory of saying, "Okay, talk to you tomorrow" or even, uhm, "bye". I was kinda mortified. I fell asleep as he was talking. But I just talked to him now and he was like, "You sounded so out of it and stressed. I just kept telling you stories until you didn't respond anymore."

So. Two friends. Givin' Special Ops O'Malley a little support and help.

Much much appreciated. And whaddya know - I got almost 10 hours of sleep. And no terrible dreams. Friends help you slay your own dragons. They really do.

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September 8, 2007

Special Ops says:

Mind meld: how we speak now - after this crazy marathon week and before we begin another marathon week: shorthand has developed. Here is a list of our terms.

B-dubs
chillax!
Jackass McGee (we use that as an all-purpose frustrated nickname. "So when I hear back from jackass McGee ..." "Jackass McGee left me a message ...")
"The air is thick and still"(English accent)
My fallopian tubes wrap around your uterus and I am a FEMALE WOMAN!!!
Special Ops (this is my nickname. "So. Special Ops. What's new with Dean Stockwell?")
Homeslice. ("If I don't get that crap back from Homeslice ...")
Leebs
brill
I am NOT SCIRIED of the word VIGINA
YOU ARE A SUDUCE!
suduce suduce
stacked heels
Did you wash your soul clean in God's salt?
Ummmm .... WHAT?
'nuff said (we hate 'nuff said)
are you SCIRIED of the word VIGINA?
I am not SCIRIED of the word VIGINA!
I am punchy, man.
What time is it?
Let's push the car service back.
I will slit my wrists! (very quick slash to wrist, and then pantomime of IMMEDIATE death)
"I never realized that suicide that way would be so QUICK!"
Hugh Laurie
Dean Stockwell
Let's try to put it all together now:
Yo. Chillax, b-dubs. Leebs is not sciried of your vigina. She's just a suduce. Like Homeslice. Or Jackass McGee. (quick slash slash of wrists. Immediate death.) Special Ops has washed her soul clean in God's salt. She does not wear stacked heels although she, and her uterus, are a FEMALE WOMAN. With a VIGINA. Ummm ... WHAT? So chillax! Dean Stockwell and Hugh Laurie are not sciried. They are BRILL. 'Nuff said.

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September 2, 2007

Scanner Sunday

A Wade montage. As is probably not surprising - since my last Diary Friday - I've been determined to find him again. I know he's here in New York, and I just love him. He was in the HBO movie Hysterical Blindness - had a small part, played Justin Chambers' best friend - but he's visible in almost every scene in that pool hall ... Jen and I, watching, were like: WADE!!! We called him immediately and left him a joint message, screaming about how great he was, and how much we loved and missed him.

He and I were such freaks together. Grad school can be an overly serious atmosphere. But as long as we were in the same classes, we were never in danger of taking things too seriously.

The photos below are either ones I took of Wade - or ones Wade took of me.

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That's a picture Wade took of my friend Jen and me - at a party. On a beanbag chair.



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Okay, so this one has been making me laugh every time I look at it.
We are IN CLASS. Mkay? Notice the serious grad school conferences going on behind us. Yet we have a Polaroid camera. And this is what we are doing over in our corner. I am shaking with laughter right now.

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Wade and I are on the subway here - and it's gotta be 3 o'clock in the morning. I am being an emphatic asshole.


Okay, so this one below needs some context but I am crying with laughter looking at it. There was a woman in our program who considered herself to be the Grande Dame of theatre, Helen Hayes reincarnated, whatever. She actually was very talented - and she and I got on very well - but man, she could be obnoxious. So she was standing up in some workshop, pontificating on something - and I glanced behind her and saw this:

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He was creeping up behind her but looking at me. Like that! I can't stand it!!



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This is me, in class. I lived on those Energy Bars. I tried to pretend they were a valid food group.


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I took this picture of Wade at some party we were at. I love it. The rings, the sideburns, the 'stache ... He was the most interesting mix of wild boy, staunch upstanding citizen, hippie, and artist. I always felt safe with him - he had that gentlemanly thing, too. No double standard, either. He treated women with friendliness. A babe magnet, as you can imagine. Amazing actor, too.

I will be back in touch with him by this time next week, you mark my words!

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Scanner Sunday

Mitchell as the Unabomber.

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Scanner Sunday

Speaking of my most recent celebration of friendship - came across this photo which is amazing, in light of how long ago it was.

It was my graduation from college. My dear friend David was also in my graduating class. The rest of our friends would graduate the following year - so all of them were in attendance. And here is a photo.

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That is - from left to right - Maria, David's girlfriend at the time - who is now his wife - a dear friend of mine - and David and Maria have two beautiful young daughters. I didn't even really know Maria that well at the time this photo was taken ... but eventually, when I ended up in Chicago - and David and Maria were there - our friendship took off. It is a huge blessing to me, my relationship with her. Just kind of wild to see her - so long ago - when I didn't even know her.

Next to her on the blanket is Jackie - whose cabaret night we all just went to.

Directly behind Jackie is Antonio - my first boyfriend. I have recently gotten back in touch with him as well - although we are never far from each other's orbits. Strangely enough - Tonio and his wife and kids now live within walking distance of Jackie and her husband. A complete coincidence. But here they are ... years ago ... already connected. Amazing!

Next to Tonio is Steven - Mitchell's brother - lovingly referred to, by all of us, as "Stee".

And next to Jackie, in front of Steven, is Mitchell -- the missing link in our celebration of friendship this past Friday.

Amazing to see us all ... so long ago. But still friends, still in one another's lives on an almost daily basis. I'm blessed!!

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Celebration of friendship

My friend Jackie had her cabaret performance on Friday night and it was a night of celebration - of her talent, of her life and ambition - and also of long-lasting deep friendships. I was surrounded by people I love - people I've known all my life (my cousin Kerry was there - so we've been in each other's lives since we toddled about in diapers struggling with one another over Fisher Price people) - Kerry brought her dear friend Jen (who told me she "lurked" on my blog and while she was a little bit afraid of my obsession with Dean Stockwell, she had to admit that she would throw down with me over Scott Bakula, if it came to that) - my dear dear friends David and Maria - my good friend and former roommate of 9 years Jen - and then Jackie herself - her husband Stuart - his good friend Rob, who was best man in their wedding, the wedding I sang in ... it was a cornucopia of people I love. Rather overwhelming - my favorite kind of night. There was a funny moment where I complimented Kerry on something she was wearing. She then pointed to her T shirt, her jacket, her pants, and her bag - in succession - and said, at each point along the way: "Target, Marshalls, Filene's Basement, TJ Maxx." hahahahahaha We all convened on The Duplex for one purpose only: to support our friend Jackie. The only thing missing was the presence of Mitchell - and man, we felt it. David kept saying, "I feel like it is a literal tragedy that he is not here ..." I shoud have held up my cell phone so that he could have experienced it vicariously. I had moments, staring up at Jackie on stage - as she told funny stories, as she sang with her beautiful belting voice - when my heart swelled up like the Grinch's, and I was so proud of her that I felt like I would make a spectacle of myself. It was so moving, and I felt so blessed to be there.

I had two vodka tonics and I'm such a lightweight now because of this training regimen I'm under that I came home, passed out - and pretty much slept all day yesterday. I took a 4 hour nap which is so not me ... I only sleep 4 or 5 hours a night, normally - so I basically took a nap that was like a full-night-o-rest. Disorienting. I woke up at 7 pm, watched two Quantum Leap episodes (hi, Jen! I love Scott Bakula - but I love Dean Stockwell more - so we're safe!) - found myself dissolving in tears at the end of one of them - crying sincerely about poor Al Calavici's messed-up fate - hahahahaha GEEK - and then crawled back into bed and slept for another 8 hours.

I cannot blame all of that on 2 vodka tonics, can I???

Today is a gorgeous day. I am doing laundry. I took a 5 mile run. My new workout mix is a "thing of beauty and a joy forever". It involves:

The Weather Girls (Michael will scorn me - but he's a brat/snob about disco, so he doesn't count!)
ELO (naturally)
My Chemical Romance
Kelly Clarkson
Hellogoodbye (thank you, Emily!!! I LOVE THEM)
Metallica
Foo Fighters
Eminem
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Stray Cats


Oh, this workout mix should win an award.

But I'm still riding high from the energies and joy unleashed on Friday night.

Jackie dear: I am so freakin' proud of you, and it was an honor to be there for your debut. More to come!!

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August 5, 2007

Awesome friend moments in the last month

-- Alex left me a phone message 2 days ago. She's a wonderfully articulate woman, but her message went something like this: [Said in a very dramatic serious voice, launching right into it - no "hi, how are you", nothing like that]: "Sheila, I am so obsessed with Shirley Bassey right now that I'm actually a little bit afraid. I literally wake up thinking about her." [Long frightened pause] "I have no idea how this has happened. I just ... don't know how it happened. I do not know how this has happened. I can't stop. Sheila, how has this happened?" [She knows she's asking the right person - as I pop in "Married to the Mob" for the 10th time in 2 weeks. How has this happened? But she keeps going.] "I'm quite serious. How has it happened? I can't stop thinking about Shirley Bassey. I have downloaded songs, I have a 74 page document about her that I have to print out, I just have no idea what is happening to me right now. And I think somehow it has something to do with Dean Stockwell." [hahahahahahahahahaha The symbiosis of obsession] "I think somehow your obsession with him - and please, the guy is such a genius - he's a genius - Carol Burnett? Who DOES that? I love actors like that. I love actors who think outside of the box. He's extraordinary. And I think somehow your obsession with him has helped me open the floodgates. But I'm scared a little bit. Sheila, my first thought when I wake up is of Shirley Bassey. How has this happened? Call me." Click.

-- Phone message from Allison - I haven't seen her in about a month, but we email - and she's been reading my blog so she's up to date. After my kickboxing post she calls me and leaves a message: "Hi Sheila! I miss you! First of all, I have to tell you that I taped a special on Jeffrey Dahmer and you HAVE to see it - I have it saved for you - and also I am so psyched that you're doing this kickboxing thing! I think it's gonna be so great for you. You're gonna be able to get rid of all your pent-up SHIT!!" I laughed out loud hearing that. Yes!!

-- a good friend of a certain current obsession of mine emailed me. A correspondence has begun. I love my blog.

-- Mitchell called me. I was in the grocery store, mulling over low-fat mozzarella. The connection was horrible so he went in and out. Here is what I heard before we got cut off: "Sheila, I just saw World According to Garpfor the first time in years and I HAVE to talk about it ... that film is so well-acted ..." [long blackout period where I could not hear him. I comparison shopped in the dairy aisle, saying into my phone, "Mitchell? hello? Garp? Yes! Love it ... are you there??] "First of all ... the actors are just so ...." [blackout period ... could not hear what he was saying. Then he surged back in ...] "... and I had forgotten how PISSED that book is. How ANGRY it is ..." [blackout ... then his voice came back ...] "Every single actor in that movie is just perfect ..." [Disconnected for good. But I loved that he had to call me to rave about that movie.]

-- On July 4th, at 10:30 pm my phone rang and it was Keith M., the boy I loved when I was 9 and 10 years old - who is now back in my life because of this here blog! He was on a motorboat by himself in the middle of a lake, two time zones away from me, he was watching fireworks, had a cooler of beer with him, and thought of me. We talked and laughed and bantered until it began to rain in his time zone - he was like, "Yeah, uhm, it's kind of pouring right now ..." and I pleaded with him to go back to land and be safe. "Please don't pull an Ordinary People on me!!" He gave me some wild compliments, vastly over-stating my charms and refused to let me be self-deprecating. And I tried! I opened my mouth to protest, to talk him down - I didn't even say anything - but he could FEEL it and cut me off: "I don't want to hear one word from you right now ... let me finish ... and you just be quiet and listen!" So I shut up and let him compliment me. My childhood friend. I am so grateful.

-- Friday night. After a day of deadly mugginess and stillness, the heavens opened. Rain battered the windows 29 floors up - and we could see forks of heat lightning jagging across the sky. It seemed close enough to touch. We put on raincoats and ran downstairs. The rain was so heavy that the gutters had become rushing boiling rivers and Jen and I frolicked in the rain, dancing on the sidewalk, standing there, heads thrown back, mouths open, polluted rain pouring down our throats. We laughed and screamed at every fork of lightning - and laughed as dismayed (and laughing) passersby raced for cover. Nobody was grumpy even though everyone was caught out without an umbrella. The rain was cold too. Heavenly. Jen and I sloshed back up to her apartment, soaking wet, and exhilarated.

-- Sitting around the pool with Beth, Mere, and Michele (the only non-perfect thing was the absence of Betsy!) - candles lit, Gilligans Island palms swaying, drinking wine, eating food, and talking about everything under the sun. Marriage, edible squash flowers, Beth's new dog, work, magnetic sexual connections, kickboxing, family ... long overdue, we haven't been together in a long time.

I am blessed.

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July 27, 2007

Happy birthday, David!

In honor of his birthday today. Just glimpses, fragments.

A glimpse:
-- David, bandana round head, no shirt on, shorts, hot bod with big sculpted arms ... standing in his living room and repeatedly punching a helium balloon - which was tethered on a string - attached to something immovable - and David kept punching it like a punching bag, saying over and over - as though the helium balloon was giving him some lip: "Whose fuckin' birthday is it? Huh? HUH? WHOSE FUCKIN' BIRTHDAY IS IT?"

-- "And you know the courtesans will burn."

-- "I looove the feelin' of that ROCK in my NOSE in the MORNIN' - BING!!!"

-- The plate dance. It has to be seen to be believed.

-- "I'm all talk no action!"

-- David standing in the parking lot at Ed Debevacs in Chicago and mooning the passing cars

-- Carving pumpkins at David and Maria's apartment. It was me, Mitchell, Jackie, David, Maria, and Bobby. Jackie had some problems while carving. She had some good ideas ... but then - disaster - she cut out too much and the eye-hole caved into into the lid-top. This was no good. Jackie got upset. David pretended to scorn her horrible pumpkin carving capabilities and started shouting at her, making it into one word: "LIDEYE - LIDEYE - LIDEYE!" I kind of can't put into words WHY this was so funny ... but we still say, on occasion, "lideye" whenever we are talking about any kind of disaster. "Lideye, lideye."

-- Mitchell and David, pretending to be announcers at the Tony Awards: "Ladies and gentlemen ................................... CHITA." Which then morphed into: "A womannnnnnnn ... a performer ... a singer ... a dancer ............ a pudendum extraordinaire ........... CHITA." Seriously. It makes total sense. The funny thing was that Maria, Jackie and I had left the apartment to ... go shopping? Do errands? We left Mitchell and David there, and they were relatively normal - we came back half an hour later... and THAT was what they were doing when we walked back in.

-- Pictionary on Saturdays at David and Maria's. Those were the wildest games EVER. Mitchell, Jackie and I looked at David and Maria's apartment on Greenview as a total haven. They had big thick water glasses, and nice china. There was always something yummy that Maria had cooked. Everything was cozy and beautiful. There was also the famous couch. You walked into that apartment - and maybe James Taylor was playing - or Marc Cohn - or Des'ree - and Maria had made a pot of coffee, and the light outside was wintry and chill - and you just felt safe, and happy to be there. The two of them have always created such spaces. It's a joint effort. You walk into their house - and you just sink into the couch thinking, "Ahhhhhhhhh".

-- M. (one of the many M. posts here) called me at David and Maria's to ask me out. This was way at the beginning, I think I had gone out with him one or two times, and I was out of my mind about him. My friends will remember it well. I have no idea why this night, of all nights, stays so vivid in my mind - it's not even a big deal - but David and I still laugh about it. After the crazy cosmic-tumbler night - and then meeting him again months later when he finally got my phone number. And I was much younger then - meaning: hopeful, positive, etc. - I would never be this hopeful now, that's what time does - so I was blabbing about M. to eeeeeeeeeeeveryone. M. tracked me down at David and Maria's. I was playing Pictionary - hooooooooping he would call. Hoping so hard that it actually was unpleasant. That was how much I was into him. David LOVES stuff like this and lives it vicariously. M. called - and we spoke, and made plans to meet at Southport Lanes. Meanwhile, David and Brian were both screaming in the background, all testosterone - and M. said, tentatively, "Who are they?" I hung up the phone and scurried about the apartment like a crazy person, putting on makeup, involving everyone there in my love life. David and Brian drove me to Southport Lanes so I could meet M. David and Brian actually escorted me into the bowling lanes, my two big brothers I never had. M. wasn't there yet (thankfully - although i still think it would have been hilarious to see how he would have handled it). For some reason, David and I still talk about that night. And Brian - (who was already dating the girl he would end up marrying a couple years later - they now have 3 kids) - who didn't know me all that well had the impression that my life was ALWAYS as crazy as it was that summer. Anyway - David's total support and non-judgment of me during the entire M. relationship - which went on for YEARS - has always meant the world to me. And I still laugh when I think of the three of us parading our way through those old-time bowling lanes, me in my derby, the two of them - big guys, football players - escorting me to my crazy date ... beautiful.

-- David and I met when I was 16. He was 19.

-- During a show once in college - he came up through a trap door into the middle of a scene that he wasn't a part of. During a performance. He did it on a dare. Just stood there grinning at the other cast members who were stunned into baffled and terrified silence, like ... "Uhm ... what the hell are you doing here?" He got into trouble but he didn't care.

-- In Chicago, David and I (and Mitchell, too) were in one of the worst shows ever put onto the stage.

-- Once at a party in college - at around 5 am - David and I wrote down a vow that we would always be friends, and there was even a pricking-of-the-finger thing that happened - I still have that vow. With an ancient blood-stain on the piece of looseleaf.

-- Every day with David is a journey. I see him once every couple of weeks - and he is always living, learning, growing, struggling. He is one of my dearest and most cherished friends. He knows how to listen.

-- David, Maria and I were all together on October 27, 2004. It's a memory that will remain vivid for me forever.

-- Another vivid memory: David, Maria, Me, Mitchell and Jackie all going to see James Taylor the last summer we were all together in Chicago. David and Maria were moving to New York in September. I have pictures of that night - Taylor played outside, it was a glowing summer twilight ... and we took all these pictures in the parking lot - that totally capture the beautiful vibe not only of our collective friendship - but of that particular moment in time - because it was July, and everything was about to change ... some good change, some horrible ... and it was coming ... and coming quick. In that parking lot, the sunset glow on our laughing faces, we tiptoed on the precipice. A magical night - made no less magical because so much sadness followed.

-- I stood up in the Barnes & Noble on Diversey, in Chicago. I had been sitting in the same position for a couple of hours, so when I stood up, I had no feeling in my foot. My ankle twisted beneath me and I collapsed onto the floor, coffee flying up out of my cup. Employees rushed over. This is before we all had cell phones. I didn't know what to do - One look at my ankle - and how huge it got - it was like a blowfish - terrified me. I couldn't walk. I also was unemployed and had no health insurance. The Barnes & Noble employees helped me over to the payphone - and I couldn't think of what to do. So I called David. "David??? Uhm .... my ankle is .... I really hurt myself ...." You could HEAR the focus in his voice immediately. He's like a fireman that way. "Where are you. I'm coming to get you." He arrived 10 minutes later, with Mitchell. By that point my ankle was so huge I was afraid to take my shoe off. He got me into his car, I wasn't hysterical or anything like that - just kind of pissed at myself. Mitchell and I lived on the third-floor of an apartment building. Once in the lobby, supported by both my friends, I stared up the stairs silently. Thinking, "Okay. Not sure how I'm gonna get up to my floor." Before I even put one foot on the first stair, David scooped me up in his arms, as though I weighed nothing, and carried me all the way up to the apartment. Even to this day I get a little choked up remembering his take-charge manner.

-- "In you In you In you In you In you" ...

-- David and I spent a year working on the play Summer and Smoke with our mentor. It was one of the most intense and awesome acting experiences I have ever had. And nobody, except the people in that class, saw our work. I talk about it a bit here. He's an amazing actor and working on that play, in particular, with him - was truly one of the greatest gifts of my life. It was a time of major soul-growth for me, and in many ways, Alma Winemiller led the way. Tough stuff. But the play kept me anchored. I kept a detailed journal of the whole process - which I've thought of posting here. Acting with David is one of those things where it never feels like acting. It's real. You listen, you talk - he's unpredictable, I'm unpredictable - it's not LITERAL ... It's marvelous and exciting. I STILL would love to do that play with him. Even if only 20 people saw it.

-- The relationship that he and Mitchell have is truly hysterical. They are like Long Lost Brothers, seriously. Sometimes they get so out of control that you almost want to say, "Boys. Time for bed."

-- Oh God, and then there was that morning after the craziest college party ever (all my college friends will know EXACTLY the one I am talking about) - and it was a "formal" party, so we all were dressed to the nines. David wore a tux. I wore a black lace flapper dress. We all ended up sleeping over the house, but of course nobody had pajamas or anything, so we all slept in our formal clothes: people lying in pull-out couches here and there, dressed in tuxedos and gowns. Tthen we woke up the next morning - and a core group of us - Mitchell, Jackie, David - still dressed like that - went out to breakfast at a local diner - and then drove to the Showcase to see Seventh Sign. David looked like a gigolo. His bowtie was bright red, he had loosened his white shirt, opened the collar - but he kept the bowtie on like a Chippendale - he had on mirrored sunglasses - I could not even look at him without bursting into laughter - and we all walked into the Showcase Cinema for a matinee movie dressed in last night's formal wear ...

-- He talked to me until my train came.

-- "Clip it or cloak it, Chloe."

-- He ran into M. at an audition for something. It was a couple of years into my relationship with M. - so David knew WAY too much about him because I was a blabber-mouth and found M. to be the most fascinating person ever born of woman on this planet. So. M. walked into the waiting room, signed in - and David observed his behavior for a while - like a spy - it was like he was watching a rare bird in his natural habitat. So finally David went over and said, "Hi ... I'm David ..." M., awkward at all times, kind of winced at David - like: "Oh God. What did I do and why don't I remember it?" David said, "Yeah ... we've met once or twice before - we have a friend in common .... Sheila." At the sound of my name - M. visibly relaxed - his whole tense demeanor changed, it was like this sudden softness and fondness came over his face - David saw the whole thing (and of course I made him do an imitation of the facial expressions a gazillion times. "Do it again.") - and - awkwardly - M. said, "Sheila? Yeah .... yeah ... Sheila .... She's ...." (Long agonizing pause, as he tried to think of what to say. His heart was full but his mind was a blank.) Then out came: "She's a good girl." Okay - so if you don't know me or him, this might not sound very amusing - but ... to those of you who DO know M., and you know me - and you know us together, you will know how ridiculous this moment is. What are you SAYING, man? "Yeah ... yeah ... she's ... she's a good girl." Like who says that??? A grandfather maybe, but not a crazy boyfriend! He was a tough gruff kind of guy, completely insane, brilliant, funny, a jock - and ... well. He truly had feelings for me - but instead of saying it in a normal way, like, "Oh, you know Sheila? Yeah, she's great!" or whatever ... he fumbled for words, said my name a couple of times (pointlessly)... and then summed it all up with, "She's a good girl." And the second it came out - David said he saw the mortification flicker through M.'s eyes - I'm laughing out loud - like he KNEW: "Oh shit. Did I just refer to her as a 'good girl'? Did I just say, 'Sheila ... she's a good girl' to one of her best friends? Who is a guy? Can a hole open up in the ground right now for me??" But funny thing: the stories about M. were always kind of wild, involving pool halls, and towed cars, and crawling thru windows, etc. - and my friends had to kind of just let go and say, "Okay - well, Sheila knows what she's doing ... " But after that moment with M. - the shy awkward wince, the "she's a good girl", etc. (because the thing about it is, and I know I wasn't even there - but M. MEANT it!! He meant it! He said exACTLY what he meant - it just came out in a goofiness beyond belief. But he spoke the truth.) - anyway, in that moment, David, with his intuition, completely got it. Totally saw what I saw. The wince in the eyes behind the wild behavior. It was important to me that David "get it". It always is, I guess.

-- The sun hurt my eyes that day. We sat outside at Cafe Avanti. I was so heartsick that I had become physically sick. It was right after this. I couldn't eat, sleep. I called in sick to work. It was one of the worst and loneliest days of my life. David came and got me and we spent the day drinking coffee, talking. I remember hunching over the table, protectively, nibbling on toast, or whatever, no taste buds, nothing. Heartsick. And at one point, he said these words: "Just because something is meant to be, Sheila, doesn't mean that it will be." Hard hard to hear. It's STILL hard to hear. But in raw moments like that ... his big strong presence was (is) healing.

-- "I ain't proud of it mind you...but I ain't above it neither!"

-- He's one of my "ideal readers". By that I mean - I feel totally comfortable showing him first drafts of things. Not only do I feel comfortable - but his input has always been invaluable. It's not about praise - it's that sometimes he has this way of seeing what I'm TRYING to say before I even can see it ... He's a deep reader. His insights have helped me figure out what I'm trying to express.

-- He helps me to be soft. I can be a pretty hard and rigid person. Talking with him helps me to keep open, stay receptive ... I fight him sometimes, I insist on my rigidity, I insist ... but it is never a bad thing to question, to listen, to be open to others. David helps me with that.

He has a way of expressing things - about me, and my life - that helps me remember who I am. Like this. He gives me back parts of myself that I thought I had lost along the way.


So David:

Whose fuckin' birthday is it?

Yours, my dear friend.


Below: a related diary entry from college.

DECEMBER 29
Susan had a party. At first I didn't want to go. Haven't been feeling very rowdy or social lately. But I went. All the way up to Pawtucket. I think it was so nice of her to ask me. I like her a lot. She has the cutest place. Fell totally in love. It was Mitchell, Jackie, David W., David S., Tony, a guy named Russell, Susan and me.

Cheeses galore, veggies, crackers, bread, Brie, wine.

Great music. Looked at Edwin Drood slides.

Then -on a whim - we all bundled up and went bowling. And had THE BEST TIME. We went to this Bowlarama in scary Pawtucket. Someone was murdered in Pawtucket this very morning. It's a tough place.

Let me paint the picture for you. I cannot believe that we were not mugged.

It was League night. There were also a lot of tough teenagers, being sullen and hostile. There's nothing more hostile than a teenager from Pawtucket. Then, the 8 of us arrive. Theatre geeks. Loud. Flamboyant. And INTO bowling, no matter how much we sucked.

Susan - in a bright red dress with little black dogs over it, and shiny black spandex tights. She got gutter ball after gutter ball after gutter ball. It was extremely funny.

We are not normal people. We don't just bowl. We don't just do anything. We throw our hearts into it. After every spin, there would be a production number of some kind. Screams. Hugs. Sobs. (Jackie cried once.) Susan kept standing up there, stock still, for at least a minute, after her 10th straight gutter ball. She was struck dumb. Immovable. Susan finally got a spare, and the resulting celebration - she had a FIT. David W. raced up there to whirl her around.

Jackie - wearing silky grey pants, and a sweater. Glamorous as always. Offhandedly tossing the ball into the lane. Her pattern? Her first try? gutter. Second try? she would knock down about 8. And her last try? Gutter. She had no set up, no carry thru. She just stood up there and whipped the ball down wildly. And she would get really sullen after gutter balls. Didn't want to talk about it, or discuss it. She also cried for real when she got a spare.

Me - I had my hair pulled back. I had on huge hoop earrings, a silky white shirt, tight jeans. My setup would be: I would shake my ass in everyone's face and then I would very very seductively toss the ball down the lane. Such a jackass. And after all that, I would basically seductively toss the ball straight into the gutter. It took me 2 strings to warm up. I, too, got frustrated after gutters and would stomp back to my seat. Quite bratty. I also flirted madly with the guy in charge. He loved me and came over to keep score for me and Jackie. I strolled around like I owned the place.

Mitchell - totally in black, with a Joan Crawford-like jacket with shoulder pads bigger than mine. He is so handsome. It kills me. Especially with his hair short. His face is fantastic. It makes me laugh. He is also a FUNNY bowler. I now want to go bowling with him every day. Cigarette hanging out of his mouth, seriously tallying up the scores, barking funny comments out of the side of his mouth. He is a serious bowler too. He would do many wild Carlton Fisk-like gesticulations to try to change the direction of the ball. Then, he'd invariably realize how ridiculous he looked, glance around to see if anyone had noticed. And of course we ALL had noticed, because we were all looking at him. We laughed explosively. "I was trying to make it turn," Mitchell would say ... like he really had to explain.

David S - Pretty normal. (Looking, anyway.)

Russell - also pretty normal as a bowler. These two seemed tame to me.

And then ... there was:

Tony. Tony. Tony. Okay. Tony had on a white tuxedo shirt, black tuxedo pants with a black satin stripe down the side, matching purple and blue paisley cummerbund and bowtie, and then - a shimmering purple velvety velour smoking jacket with black satin lapels. And bowling shoes. I didn't even realize how hilarious he looked until halfway thru our time there. They had a bar and Tony went up and ordered us all beers, and he came back with a loaded-down tray, and in the blazer, and tuxedo pants, he looked like a bizarre Bowlarama waiter.

God, I love my friends. "We might be laughing a bit too loud ... but that never hurt no one..."

Tony was a wild bowler. Sometimes right on the money, and sometimes he would whip it, with total conviction, right into the gutter. He took none of it seriously. He would laugh after every gutter ball. Hysterically. Something about gutter balls (other people's gutter balls) are extremely funny. So there we all were, holding our beers, and pointing at Tony, laughing uproariously.

Then - David W. What a creature. What a piece of work. He is the most riotous person I know. First of all, he looked like a guido from hell: gold chains, flashy open shirt, pleated pants ... I just cannot laugh hard enough to satisfy how funny he is. He would walk up there ultra-confident and arrogant, with that funny deadpan TOTALLY serious look on his face, picking up a ball jauntily as though he were Mr. Pro, doing this magnificent sweeping setup, sliding to his knees as he let the ball go, and then the ball would careen right into the gutter. It happened to him so many times. And his face! It was all Mr. Macho! Yeah, I meant to do that ... big deal ... When he would get a strike or a spare, he would do a mad Solid Gold dancer dance routine, or he would whirl around to face us, leaping and bounding, like it was the World Series. He busted up Susan mercilessly about her gutter balls, making fun of her, and then he would go up there and immediately get one himself. Every time the two of us would end up up there together, he would try to distract me. "Hey baby ... what are you doin' later? How you doin', baby? Come here often??"

We were two very noisy lanes, and the League kept giving us dirty looks. We had become their enemies.

The punks next to us were 15-year-old tough guys ... and they just did not know what to do with David W. They could not take their eyes off of him. They could not believe what they were seeing. They were dumbfounded.

David was dressed like a Cranston guido, with the pinkie rings, and the open shirt - he looked like one of them - but he was behaving like a MANIAC. At one point, he was DISCO dancing at the end of his lane as though he were an extra in Saturday Night Fever.

So these kids were gaping at him, literally slack-jawed, and they kept muttering to each other, "Faggot. That guy is such a faggot. Look at that guy. What a fag." It was all "fag fag fag fag". That word makes me see red.

The funniest thing, though, is that David is the most heterosexual guy in our group - and they called HIM a "fag"! Meanwhile, there was Tony strolling around in purple velour and paisley, and Mitchell strolling around in shoulder pads and penny loafers. But no. DAVID is the one who gets picked on. Genius!

After they left, I told Mitchell and David what had gone on, how they had kept calling David a "fag". Mitchell automatically assumed (poor thing) that the dudes had been harassing him. For some reason, he has been harassed constantly this year. It makes me see red. But I said, reassuringly, "No! They were calling David a fag!"

And the three of us exploded. David just LOVED it. "Me?? I love it!"

It was just so ironic. Tony sashays by in velour, speaking in a faux British accent, and the kids don't say a word.

Tonight there was a roaring wind, and shaggy clouds in the night sky, with bright crystal-clear starry sky, in all the rifts between the clouds ... a moon that seems to half-fade into darkness. I loved the sky tonight. All of us went outside to pile into cars to go bowling, and we had to stop, and stare up at the sky. It demanded our attention. Susan was so cute, and Parisian, in her black coat, red scarf, and black beret, gasping up at the sky in admiration and awe. It was shiveringly cold. Because of the amazingly strong wind, and all of those clouds ... it's a very uncanny sight to see white clouds at night. It was a spectacle. And the clouds seemed low to me ... torn apart, and hurrying by ... and behind them, actually overwhelming them, was the vast brilliant wintry cosmos.

We all were struck quite dumb by it, there on the freezing scary Pawtucket sidewalk.




Years Later: backstage at the worst show ever. We cared more about our Uno game than our performances.

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Happy birthday, dear dear David.

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June 9, 2007

A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou.

A feast at twilight.

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May 24, 2007

"Passionate minutiae"

David frantically emailed me yesterday saying we needed to get together, it had been way too long, and we needed to sit and talk endlessly about "passionate minutiae".

Nobody like David.

I can't wait. I am allllll about passionate minutiae. You have no idea just how passionate my minutiae can get. You have no idea just how minute my passion can become. And etc. and etc.

I think I need to write a short story with that as the title. Or a poem. Or something.

David and me. Passionate minutiae. It's gonna be a long night!

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May 20, 2007

Scanner sunday

He's lecturing me about something, chowing down on a stack of French toast.

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Scanner sunday

Long-time regular readers of my blog will recognize this one right away. And for those of you who are new ...

Still has the potential to get me all choked up.

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May 10, 2007

Just in case ...

there was any lingering confusion ... (and shockingly, there still is)

here is a helpful visual aid we cooked up, for your reference notes:

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May 3, 2007

I told you so, Pagliaccio

In context, the following moment makes sense. However, I will not provide context, because I think it's funnier.

Last night, during the Q & A, Mitchell leaned over to me and whispered, in a tone of savage "I told you so" triumph:

"I knew someone up on that stage had done mask work."

Yup.

You were right.

"Mask work" was in da house.

Mitchell called it and so his moment of triumph was well-deserved. Mask work was subliminal. He knew there was commedia training amongst the crowd.

It's like Hunter saying that he always knows when there's a blimp in the sky, even if he's inside. "I have an uncanny sixth sense for the presence of dirigibles," he said to me once, in all seriousness.

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April 21, 2007

Scanning Saturday

Now, Sheila, do your own work. Build your own bird-feeder, don't copy your (bossy BOSSY) friend.

This is 4th grade, I believe. (The Year of Keith.) Yes, definitely it is - because Betsy isn't in the picture. Betsy came to our school in 5th grade, and after that - every picture I'm in, she's in too. Inseparable.

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Scanning Saturday

I was in 5th grade - or maybe 6th - and Betsy and I took some after-school photography program. I think Betsy and I must have had some assignment about getting the same shot from multiple angles. We got very creative. Here is one - where I am obviously attacking Betsy.

I have a ton more - where we zoom in on her face, or mine, a far off shot, a close-up ... it's hysterical.

The photos are disintegrating.

Oh, and by the way - we're at school here.

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Scanning Saturday

Mitchell and I became FAST friends at age 19. Then we had a "bad time" which lasted 3 months, and where I was a totally cold bitch. Then came the thaw, and after that - we became obnoxiously close. Inseparable. Later, we laughed about it - how people in the theatre department must have been like, "Guys ... you're not the first two people to discover friendship ... please get over yourselves."

But we couldn't!!

We jitterbugged constantly. We knew one routine - and we did it over, and over and over ... complete with the choreographed bow. Like whether or not the music had come to an end - we HAD to do our bow, because that was the only way we knew how to end it.

Here we are in the act. This was after the thaw. As you can tell by my big red cheeks - which are also indicative of the summer, and also clearly show the effects of my jolly shame-free underage drinking. I love love love this photo. I miss those earrings.

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April 9, 2007

"I hear yah, troopah!"

In honor of Jackie's birthday - which is today: Random quotes, each with a whole story behind it:

-- "Where is the delivery boy with that fabric morgue??"

-- "I had to wear 40 fuckin' corsets on that shoot. 40 fuckin' corsets."

-- "I was married to that Nazi bastid for 30 years and I got NOTHIN'."

-- Tequila shots and Caroline

-- M. calls my house - Jackie picks up.
Jackie: "Hello. Tony's Pizza Palace."
M.: "I'd like a Sheila to go."
Jackie: "And what would you like on that?"
M.: "Nothing."

-- "Beneath the bad haircut and the 2 dollar jeans beats a heart of gold."

-- "Are those .... your tents? Tell 'em Mrs. Baaaaarney sent ya...... They'll know."

-- We did a production of My Cup Ranneth Over - one of my favorite college productions I ever did. And, like, 40 people saw it. Major great memories working with Jackie.

-- At an open mike with her in Chicago. We sang as a duo. A fuse blew - and the entire bar was plunged into darkness. We were there with M., my guy - my grumpy curmudgeonly guy. There were all these musicians there, with guitars that needed to be plugged in, the microphones didn't work - no electricity - so the open mike came to a stop - Mayhem ensued. M. yelled thru the dark at the organizer, "Hey, there's an a capella group over here!!!" Being helpful. I had a MAJOR heart-crack. So Jackie and I made our way to the stage - PITCH BLACK - the place was packed - people were still drinking - the cash register happened to be an old-fashionied manual one - so you could hear the pounding of the keys - and Jackie and I sang our entire repertoire, a capella, until the lights came back on. One of the most magical nights of my entire time in Chicago. You could have heard a pin drop in that place while we were singing.

-- Jackie and I worked in a factory after college. We had to be "on the line" at 6 am. Which meant Jackie had to come and pick me up every morning at 5:15. The headlights of her car pulling into the drive. Coffee in the darkness. Grim silence between us. We sat on the assembly line all day. We met up by the lunch truck on our breaks, to commiserate, share our misery.

-- Our Sunday night dates when I first moved to Chicago: We would walk down the street to My Pie (only the "pie" was spelled with the sign for Pi) - and we would have a mug of beer each, and share a pizza. My favorite pizza joint in Chicago. Then we would walk back to her place and pull the TV out of the closet (she kept it in there for the majority of the time) - to watch Life Goes On - a show we were completely addicted to.

-- "He ripped my brown wool leg-wraps."

-- Oh. The carnage we caused.

-- All the men we dated. The HOURS of conversation about them. Meeting up for coffee, or drinks .. to talk about this or that man. Supporting each other. Laughing. Crying. Whatever. Just there for each other. I was there on the day she kind of "discovered" that she loved the man who is now her husband. A magical freezing day. They weren't even dating yet ... but something shifted that day. Something shifted.

-- I sang at their wedding.

-- Jackie and Mitchell came to a Halloween party dressed as Jackie's grandparents, Chester and Millie. (Click below the fold to see the image.) Chester and Millie were FAMOUS to all of us - as well as beloved. That is one of my favorite photos of my friends EVER. TAKEN. There is so much that is delicious about it. Look at the anxiety in Mitchell's eyes. Like ... Chester doesn't know WHAT is going on, and he feels a little bit out of his comfort zone. He is frightened. And look at Jackie's face. Her mouth is open. Her hand pats Chester's arm comfortingly. WHAT IS SHE SAYING TO HIM? It's hilarious. She is so obviously soothing Chester. "It's all right, dear, it's all right ..."

-- There was one infamous day in Chicago when I had double-booked myself. I had a date in the afternoon with one guy, a date in the evening with another guy, and I was stressing out. I was talking with Jackie about it on the phone, and in the middle of the conversation, I got another call and it was a THIRD man calling me up to ask me out for the NEXT day. I am not bragging - seriously, it was actually not even a pleasant experience. I felt like: ARGH, all on one weekend? I don't even LIKE dates!! I hung up with Third Guy and clicked back over to Jackie, and filled her in. "That was Third-Guy. He wants to go out tomorrow." There was a short pause and Jackie said in a flat emotionless voice, "You are a burning icon in the Chicago sky."

-- One night Jackie and I decided to walk to the beach, in Rhode Island, to see the sunrise. It was a 7 mile walk. This is a story I NEED to write down. It's an entire novel, what happened on that damn walk.

-- We were the first to come upon a drunk driving accident once, on a lonely country road, at midnight. We saw a car on its side. It had obviously been coming from the opposite direction, came into our lane, went up on the field embankment, and flipped. It was freaky to be the first ones there. We clearly heard someone moaning in the car. Jackie went running up to one of the dark houses ... and banged on the door, shouting for them to call for an ambulance. Within minutes, the entire fire department, police department, and EMT staff came screaming out of the country dark.

Jackie and I ended up standing up on a nearby grassy knoll, watching the entire thing. There was a wasted fat gentleman standing up in the car - which was on its side. So he was standing, with his feet on the passenger window, banging against the driver-window which was now above his head. His belly was protruding and hard - a serious beer gut. He looked like he was trapped in a fish tank. He could have not only fucking killed someone, but he could have killed US. If we had come around that corner 15 seconds earlier, he would have smashed right into us. So I have no sympathy for him. He's lucky he's alive. Another car came along, and decided to stop and watch - because the whole road was blocked off. Two really cute and friendly college guys stood and watched, and ended up joining Jackie and I on the grassy knoll. MUCH flirting then occurred. We were shamelessly flirting at the scene of a drunken car accident. Jackie and I roared about this later. The EMTs finally got the guy out of the car - and he put up a struggle - A policeman scolded him, saying, "You need to do what we say, sir." And fat-drunk man uttered these now-mythic words - "I hear ya, trooper!" He said it in a jolly tone, a cooperative tone, a buddy-buddy tone. Also, let's add on the Rhode Island accent. "I heah yah, troopah!" To this day, Jackie and I still use "I heah ya, troopah" in normal everyday conversation. "I mean, I'm just really upset right now ... do you hear what I'm saying?" "I heah yah, troopah."

-- We got to have an enormous stage fight that opened the show of Edwin Drood. I actually got to flip Jackie over a ledge, and she plummeted down through the air. (A mattress was placed at the bottom - out of sight of the audience - for her to land). Can I tell you how fun it was to have a raging FIGHT with Jackie? We rolled down stairs together. We stamped on each other's feet. We shouted obscenities - in thick Cockney accents. We chased each other up and down the aisles. It has to be the most fun I've ever had on stage. So RIDIDCULOUS. And the ending was always the best. When I just grabbed onto her (in a highly rehearsed way, of course) and flipped her over the ledge. hahahaha Also, we were dressed up in mid-19th century Music Hall get-ups - with huge feathers coming out of our heads, and flashy petticoats, and heaving bosoms, and sillks and taffetas - slutty-looking (those Music Hall girls were often prostitutes) and yet - with some of the charm of the era. Not showing EVERYthing. So the two of us - in our Music Hall outfits, and outlandish makeup - beating the crap up out of each other. GLORIOUS!!!

-- "Jeremy, wipe your wicked ass." No way can I ever explain that quote - give context - how it came about. It is unexplainable. But I am STILL laughing about it. It needs to be said in a nasal priggish voice, vaguely British: "Jeremy, wipe your wicked ass." The words "wicked ass" must be RELISHED, too - give them more emphasis than the other words. You judge the ass as being "wicked" - yet you also find the "wicked"-ness of the ass strangely titillating.

-- Morning after a wine-drenched debauched night in college. Jackie, Brooke and I lay in my bed. Aching with our hangovers, not talking, We were HURTING. Jackie slowly opened her eyes, perceived her condition for a silent moment, and then stated, flatly, "You could tap my liver and feed communion to a small Catholic church."


I love you, Jackie!!! Happy birthday!

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Chester and Millie

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March 29, 2007

And I missed a birthday: Bad friend, bad friend!!

Betsy and I have been friends since 5th grade. I do not remember how the friendship blossomed (Bets - do you?) - but it must have been a pretty instantaneous connection.

The main thrust of the start of our friendship was our shared love (should we say OBSESSION) for the musical of "Oliver". We went into a world of our own with this obsession. We would sit on top of the jungle gym at recess and sing through the entire score, song by song, with a crowd of children listening to us. We were a Rhode Island version of Maria Von Trapp, apparently.

Betsy and I wrote a book together. It was called "What Lies Below the Well". I wish I still had that manuscript. It was a mixture of Lion, Witch and Wardrobe, and Oliver Twist.

At one point, one character peers down the well and says, "I see something down there!"

Another character says, "What do you see?"

First character replies, "A long thin winding staircase without any bannister!"

See, I STILL think that's funny.

Imagine how thrilled we were when, in 6th grade, the school musical was announced, and it was going to be "Oliver".

Betsy (11 years old) was cast as Nancy, the whore with a heart of gold.

I was cast as the Artful Dodger, the mischievous pickpocket who acts as Oliver's guide. "Consider yourself - AT home - Consider yourself - one of the family..." I even did a Cockney accent. And our other friend J. was cast as Fagan. She was the wild card. She hadn't expected to get a big part - I still remember her huge glimmering eyes when the cast list was read out.

Betsy and J. and I leapt up and down in the hallways at school, when we heard the news, and cried, and hugged. We were out of our minds!

Other jokes through the years:

-- We always spoke in English accents. We thought people would be impressed. Why I have no idea.

-- We would walk from her house to the gym on the University campus after school and go swimming for an hour. Chattering the entire time to one another in English accents. For some reason, we liked to pretend that we had to walk 20 miles to get to the gym. That was part of our game. One or the other of us would sigh, in a British accent, "10 more miles!"

-- We used to sit in her room after school and tape ourselves doing skits which we thought were supremely hilarious. Betsy would play her autoharp and I would sing. Now THAT is a funny image. The autoharp!!

-- Betsy's father, an Episcopal priest, ran a camp in the north of Rhode Island - a work camp. It was a tree farm, and kids would flock to the camp every summer to work the tree farm. A work camp where you would have Bible study classes, and go out and cut trees down all day. I know, it sounds so fun, right? I went every summer. Even though I am Catholic. It was so freakin' FUN. There was one week called "Music Camp", which was hilariously fun. The whole camp took music workshops, acting workshops, put on a musical ... All while living in little cabins in the woods, and working on the tree farm as well. We would wake up at 7 in the morning and all run to go to church, which was held in a huge drafty barn. I guess you could say I had some of my first intense spiritual experiences at camp. God seemed realler there. And now - in a beautiful "all is right with the world" kind of way: Betsy runs Music Camp.

-- There have been times when I laughed so hard with Betsy I thought I might perish off the face of the earth.

-- One day, in high school, during "spirit week" (did you all ever have spirit week? School spirit week - where one day would be Hawaiian Day, one day would be Pajama Day - and you would come to school in costumes?) Anyway, Betsy and Mere, another great friend, were hanging out in the school library in their pajamas, during study hall. They were in a slapstick mood. Wearing your pajamas as you ride a school bus will do that to you. They had waterguns, and they began to chase each other through the stacks, ambushing each other in true Charlie's Angels style. Mrs. Wood, the rather imperious librarian, came around the corner and said, sternly, "Girls. Do I need to send you down to the principal's office, or do you need a babysitter?" Bad move - to give the girls a choice. Betsy and Mere glanced at each other, then looked back at Mrs. Wood and said, in unison: "I think we need a babysitter."

-- Betsy made her own dress for the senior prom. A lace extravaganza the exact style of which, unfortunately, ended up on a Leeza Gibbons show many years later, entitled: "Embarrassing Fashions from the 80s." It's okay, Bets. You looked great.

-- Betsy is one of the most loving supportive and friendly women I know. She is "good people", you know what I mean? She understands struggle - she is one of those people that you can go to with your problems, or when you're panicking about something stupid - because she will understand.

-- She never really says what you might expect her to say. Her wisdom is her own.

You're the best, dear Betsy. Happy birthday.

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Happy birthday, Ann Marie!!

I wrote this huge post last year about how she and I "met before we met" - It was a mythic night, especially in retrospect - because I met her - before I really met her. I met M. - before I really met him. And I met Phil ... who took me on a date to see Pat McCurdy and this had long-term repercussions which still have reverb today. I went on one date with Phil and he took me to see Pat?? I mean, what? THANK you, Phil ... you have NO idea! And then months later I meet Ann Marie again ... at Pat? What are the odds?? Anyway, you can read the whole thing up there - it still makes me shiver a bit to think of what my life would be like if I HADN'T gone out on that shivery February night.

And so in honor of my dear friend's birthday, I am going to post an old Diary Friday which describes my best birthday party ever - a party that was engineered entirely by Ann Marie.

Thank you, dear friend ... and happy birthday!

November

I remember events by my outfits. That night, at Pat, was a blue denim and black mini-skirt kind of night. I had a feeling re: M.; by this point I totally believed he would be there. I sat for the first set with Ann and she came back after going to the bathroom ("doing a sweep" for M.) and said, "Let your heart SING!"

I went back to sit with him. I felt like I was shooting out light from beneath my skin. I was so happy!

Pat had me sing with him. The intro to that song pulls my heart up and out of my body. He makes me feel like I could fly. If only I could run fast enough.

After the show, everyone was heading to the Emerald Queen, all of us exiting together. Pat was leaving too. I made M do the velociraptor for Pat.

(Ed: A quick note: M did "imitations" of dinosaurs. So funny that I would nearly asphyxiate from laughter when he would suddenly become a brontosaurus or whatever. He had been developing his velociraptor imitation for some time. I would be sitting at the bar, doing my thing, and glance over and see a velociraptor at the jukebox, picking out songs. Or he would suddenly become a pterodactyl as he took a sip of beer. He would chase me through his apartment AS a velociraptor - much to the chagrin of his poor roommate who was trying to get an early night. He became known, in my group of Lounge Ax friends who had a habit of giving everybody nicknames: "Dinosaur Boy.")

M. did NOT want to do his velociraptor for Pat, and I made him. Afterwards, M. was just wincing about it. "Pat McCurdy was having none of my velociraptor."

We all had this HYSTERICAL walk over to the Emerald Queen. M and I, our arms around each other, were lurching across Lincoln Avenue. It was 1:30 in the morning, and a huge crowd of us had been set loose. Gus Kapinsky was leapfrogging over parking meters, one after the other after the other. We made M. watch him do this.

Still stuck on Pat's clear animosity towards him, and Pat's indifference to his velociraptor, M. stood on the curb and pretended he was about to leap off and commit suicide. "I'm gonna jump!" he screamed.

No cars in sight. Long empty black street. Street lights changing from green to yellow to red with no cars there.

Suddenly M. announced bluntly, "A velociraptor can go 75-80 miles an hour" and he took off. Other Lounge Ax people heading to the Emerald Queen, some in 2s, others in larger groups, saw him gallop by, and started laughing, pointing. "Look! It's Dinosaur Boy!"

Voices echoing. Cold.

M. was a velociraptor. He peered hungrily into the windows of a car pulling out of a lot.

I was laughing so hard I thought I might need medical attention.

M. said to me after, "When I move my body people laugh."

Thinking of the velociraptor, the spontaneous jazz dances, the circus horses, the ostrich running through my apartment, I had to agree.

At one point, at the Emerald Queen, some Sinatra song came on and M. suddenly leapt up and made a spectacle of himself with an impromptu jazz dance. A crowd surrounded him, roaring with laughter. Ann and I were mopping off tears. There were actual people watching, but M. was performing for an imaginary crowd, which was my favorite part. Also, he and I had literally been in the middle of a conversation, there hadn't even been a lull, and he responded, mid-sentence, to the call of the music.

M. turned to me suddenly, later, and said, "You wanna see my circus horse?"

You really have to ask?

The place was packed with people and suddenly M. pranced through the crowd, and all I can say is he WAS a circus horse down to the expression in his damn eyeballs.

I heard people murmuring, "What's going on" as M. high-stepped around me. He became himself for a second to explain to me what he did physically to become a horse (he had a theory about it) and then he became a horse again.

Ann turned around in the middle of all this and saw him high-stepping by. She watched him for a moment and then slowly looked to me for an explanation. Her expression was priceless.

I said quietly, "He's a circus horse."

She nodded, accepting this. "Oh."

M. said to me, word for word, "You and me we laugh. We hang out with each other and we laugh. Know what I mean? It makes me happy. I like laughing with you. For too long I've lived my life like that Pat song about being artistic. I don't want to do that anymore. I like being happy."

And then 2 weeks later came my birthday extravaganza, held during a Pat show at Lounge Ax.

Ann Marie basically decorated the bar. She is so incredible. There was a huge bunch of balloons ("Here. Arrange these in a festive manner," she ordered Lady Elaine).

(Ed: This is so hostile but there was another Pat fan who she and I did not like, who was a bit crazy, and obsessed with McCurdy in a kind of stalkerish way - not in the ultra COOL and sophisticated way that ANN and I were obsessed with Pat McCurdy (sarcasm) and basically this stalker-fan's nose and his chin almost touched so Ann Marie and I called him "Lady Elaine" after the puppet on Mr. Rogers, because we felt there was a resemblance. We did not call him "Lady Elaine" to his face, but we would blatantly refer to him as such, "Wow, look at how Lady Elaine is hovering around Pat" "Loved Lady Elaine's crazy air guitar during 'Knock Things Over'"So the image of Ann Marie ordering "Lady Elaine" to arrange balloons in a "festive manner" I just It's just freakin' funny, that's all.)

Ann Marie baked cupcakes, brought candy. It was a total extravaganza. Everyone knew it was my birthday. I wore my mermaid dress and a black choker. (Ed: How embarrassing but I warned you up front! Every diary entry during the "magic time" is accompanied by a description of my clothes)

I went to find M. and he was sitting at the bar, so cute, waiting for me. I was so happy to see him I was high on him. We were a happy couple. We are a happy couple.

I pointed to all the balloons, arranged by Lady Elaine. "Those are for me."

He asked me how my actual birthday was and I told him pretty bad and that I had cried on the train. He was hurt by this news. "You cried on your birthday?"

Then he said, "I thought about you on your birthday. I thought about calling you, but " and he stopped himself with this very inward-look on his face. He had no word of excuse, he looked confused at his own behavior. "I don't know why I didn't."

I said, "You should have! Of course, at the first sound of your voice I would have dissolved into tears."

We laughed at that.

I asked him how his Thanksgiving was and he said, "It was all right," but with such an evident edgy look of misery and anxiety in his eyes. He cannot mask his emotions. I responded to the look on his face, not his words. "Not good, huh."

He shrugged and then said, "Well clearly I have issues."

I couldn't help myself. I burst into laughter right in his face. He has assimilated me! Me, always talking about "issues". He looked truly confused, like, "What did I just say?" and I kept laughing, and then he began YELLING at me, "No! No! I don't have issues. I have PROBLEMS. I don't have issues. I have PROBLEMS."

Ann Marie wrote me a fairy story for my birthday. I was living in such a euphoric state. Everything was perfect. Ann also gave me flannel sheets! Bless you, Ann!! I love them. She went totally nuts for my birthday. She is an incredible party planner.

I had raved to M. about how I wanted flannel sheets, and he told me I had to get some. So I showed them to him, all excited. "Look, M.! Flannel sheets!" He was cute kind of withdrawn, but smiling, shy, kind. "Hey! You just told me you wanted some!"

Half of our conversations are about objects and their faults or virtues: bureaus, incense, coffee makers, coffee tables, banana pickers jackets, new blue jeans, veal parmesan sandwiches, his special mattress he had as a teenager, etc.

I loved it that M. would get all puffed up like a peacock because he was "the guy with Sheila". He would pretend there was an imaginary crowd around him and he'd say in a very over-it casual tone, "Yeah I'm with her. It's no big deal. I'm just with her."

M. told me his mother said his haircut made him look like a "jackass".

We left the bar with a huge fanfare because of all my gifts and balloons.

Pat had had me sing, and had also led the entire place in singing happy birthday to me.

M. helped me carry some of my stuff out. Ann said he was behaving "very husbandly" which is so true. He was loaded down with all my gifts, and I was keeping him waiting as I said good-bye to everyone five times. He was grumbling about it, and impatient.

"I have to say good-bye to Ann Marie!"

"Didn't you already do that?"

"Yeah, but not for the last time!"

He sat in the car, exhaling frustration as I flew around hugging everyone and saying goodbye to Ann Marie 10 times.

We released all of my balloons into the air outside of Lounge Ax. They floated up over the Biograph and disappeared into the black.

I climbed into the car with M., this person I have known for almost 2 years now, and we peeled away from the curb.

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March 28, 2007

Let's do the time warp again

It's just a jump to the left ...

It is so interesting to have a great conversation with the child of a high school friend ... who is now the age when I first met my high school friend ... and to chat on the phone with her - oh, how's it going, what are you up to in high school right now, what are you working on right now ... oh you're working on a project about the Middle Ages? Oh, that's cool ... "Actually no, it's kind of stupid" she said ... "Oh, is it stupid? Yeah, I remember stupid projects I had to do, too" ... and to have, alongside of that, the image of myself at 14... and my high school friend, now this young woman's mother .... pressing our hot red Irish faces up against the gym wall during a dance, because we had just danced so hard to Rock Lobster that our heads had become raging hot tomatoes. That hot-red tomato-head now has a daughter. The age that we were back then. And the daughter and I chatted, and laughed, and connected ... and I guess it just never ceases to amaze and delight me. You're my friend's daughter!!!

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December 17, 2006

Memory

Mitchell, to Alex and Sheila (who had both been talking AT him for a good 20 minutes): "If either of you say the words 'Magoo' or 'OT Seven' to me one more time, I am leaving the room."

Alex and Sheila, together: "But Mitchell - listen ... once Magoo reached OT Seven ..."

Mitchell: "WHAT DID I JUST SAY."

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Snapshot, circa 2 a.m.

Mitchell: "Remember the day we found out that Elaine Joyce was married to Neil Simon?"

Alex: "That was a weird day, wasn't it?"

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December 16, 2006

The old stompin' grounds

Chicago. The familiar stretch of Southport. A white winter sky. The red neon of the Music Box sign towering above the rest of the signage on the street. My old house. The Jewel.

Old friends. New friends (like Pastor Sean, who regaled us with hilarious tales of the insane sound mess-up that had occurred the night before in Mamma Mia - NUTS - hysterical, one of those great theatre anecdotes). My dear friend Kate, her awesome husband, their new little baby. Perfect. His perfect hands, his perfect little face. Seeing an old dear friend become a mother. Watching her adjust, and take to it. Kinda brings tears to my eyes. I got to hold him and that was pretty cool. His large blue eyeballs staring at my face. I loved hanging out at their place ... the baby sleeping, or crying, or eating ... doing what babies do ... the poor dog lying on the rug, rather disconsolate, and desperate for attention. "She's been demoted," said Kate. Catching up with the two of them - how they're doing, their lives, their upcoming acting jobs and current acting jobs, their new roles as parents ... Got to spend the whole day yesterday with them and it just was so so so great.

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Snapshot

This morning, Mitchell and I were talking about our friendship. Mitchell was in the bathroom, getting ready for work - I was curled up in his big chair, cup of coffee next to me, Frankenstein nearby for my morning reading ... and somehow we started discussing our bond as friends. Our relationship. Its long-lastingness, its hugeness, its unbelievable reliability ... how it never FEELS like we are long-distance, even though we are.

I said, "It's kind of mysterious and huge, isn't it?"

Mitchell replied, casually, from the other room, "Yes. We have the Easter Island of relationships."

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October 23, 2006

Saturday night:

Beth, Michelle and I went to the high school in the next town to see the big "Black Belt Spectacular". Our dear friend Meredith was receiving her first degree black belt, and this night was her graduation night.

It was SUCH an amazing night. Mere has been, to put it mildly, thru the wringer over the past year. And yet ... with each setback (involving bodily injury - I mean, major stuff) - she kept going. Her dedication to this grueling process was really inspiring, especially when so much else was going wrong. Her tough-ness, her persistence, her struggles ... It was all just leading up to this night. This night of celebration.

It was SUCH a "spectacular". There were demonstrations, music, weapons flying around, 30 people moving in unison, lights turned off - spotlights moving around - it was awesome. A ton of work went into the night.

And yeah. Whatever. I cried. Beth and I told Mere later, "Yeah, we were sitting up there in tears watching you!" Mere looked mortified. "You cried? Wow. That is so embarrassing." We were complete embarrassments. Totally. And yet we couldn't seem to help ourselves. We were so proud of our friend.

Each person receiving their first degree black belt that night had to choreograph their own demo - set to music of their choice. It was their moment. Out came Mere. Beth, Michelle and I all just sat there, holding hands. Like the embarrassing geeks that we are. But it was so exciting!! Mere took her spot - all by herself on the gym floor - with the damn splint on her arm from when she broke it ... and then her music started. Blondie. Naturally. Was the song "Atomic"?? I think it was. Please confirm, Beth, Michelle, Mere, or Jayne. Thanks. When I met Mere, she was listening to Blondie. And here she is, using it for her demo. It was so cool.

We clapped and cheered for her (well, for everyone - but we stepped it up a notch for Mere) when her name was called and she stepped forward to receive her blue robe - with her name on the back - and then had her black belt wrapped around her waist It was a big moment for her. Really big.

She wasn't able to come out with us afterwards - she had to just go home and crash - but Beth, Michelle and I went to the Mews ... and sitting a couple tables away was Renshi! We know his name, but in that moment we whispered, in awe, as he walked in, "There's Renshi ..." as though he were a mythological creature come to life. Like a centaur had strolled into the Mews or something.

I am so so glad I made it to Rhode Island for the spectacular. It was something else.

Mere: congratulations. I'm so proud of you - and I honestly don't know if I could do what you have done over the last year. It kind of blows the mind.

GREAT JOB!


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September 29, 2006

Insanity on Sept. 29 ...

... is appropriate ...

... especially since there is historical basis for it ...

... on multiple levels ...

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Happy birthday, Pat, yo.

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September 17, 2006

Screen capture!!

I know, it's all about pictures on this here blog these days. The world is going to hell in a handbasket and I am navel-gazing. At least here on the blog I am. Oh well.

I can now do screen-grabs from movies. I'm so happy - now I can hone in on the one shot that I love so much in Bringing Up Baby - or the brief glance that goes over Bogart's face that I adore in Casablanca, etc.

But I'm gonna start off with a little still from Kwik Stop - which I'll also be doing an "under-rated movie" post for (I haven't forgot that series! Just been busy with other shite). Yeah, I'm biased about Kwik Stop. Michael Gilio wrote it, directed it, starred in it, he's a dear friend of mine, and my favorite ex (uhm ...) , and I am missing him right now. My apartment randomly feels empty without him in it now. Ha. Uhm - where the HELL did he go?? Beauty. Our friendship. So whatever. But it's a wonderful movie - and should be seen by more people.

Rent it!!

This is from the scene in the motel that randomly has a disco ball in the room they rent. As they lie in bed talking, the disco ball revolves - there are also little star and planet mobiles dangling from the ceiling - so fanciful little shapes float over their bodies as they talk. They are stoned. It's a perfect scene.

That's Michael and Lara Phillips there - she gives a terrific performance in this film. She creates a complex and very human girl. You love Didi even though she is SUCH a mess. It's one of those performances that dammit you just wish more people saw.

I love how the light from one of the stars is right on his face here.

kwikstop2.jpg

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September 16, 2006

Photo booth series 3

We are about 19, 20 years old here. Me, Mitchell, and Mitchell's sister . This is the summer when Mitchell and I REALLY became friends. As in kindred spirits, as in forever friends. We are having one of the funnest days EVER - we went to Rocky Point - anyone who grew up in Rhode Island will nod in recognition. Rocky Point, rest in peace. The most dilapidated trashy circus-freak amusement park ever. We spent a whole day there, going on "the flume", getting soaked. I had a terrible haircut which I had fixed the next day. As you can see, we are obviously shouting out emotional directions in between shots. I love the absolute PANIC in Sandi's eyes in that last photo. She has no idea WHAT she should be "performing" ... I don't think any of us did. I seem to recall one of us shouted out incomprehensible emotional directions like: "PROUD ... AND YET ALSO IN A RAGE ... BUT WITH A SMIDGEON OF DEFEAT ..." (hahahahaha this is the kind of shit we find fun) ... but none of us could actually DO that (let alone understand it) and so we all just started screaming.

photobooth4.jpg

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The photo booth series 2

(Inspired by Tracey - although come to think of it, I was already kind of going this way last week, with Michael arriving.)

I have pictures of me with various people in photo booths throughout many MANY years. Mitchell and I have a photo booth fetish. We will call out emotional directions to each other in between photos. "MAD!" "EXCITED!" "FRUSTRATED!" Sometimes, as a joke, we will call out very specific emotional directions: "FEARFUL YET FULL OF HOPE" - and then we will try to "do" that for the photo. It's hysterical.

These are from years ago. Look at how sepia-toned the damn thing looks. Uhm - old??

I cannot remember what the emotional directions were - but look at Mitchell's face in that first photo. I think maybe we were trying to do a "DON'T MESS WITH ME" face.

photobooth3.jpg

I love you, Mitchell.

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The photo booth series 1

These make me laugh out loud. He's actually a good-looking guy but you would never know it from that first photo. Can't stop laughing. He looks mentally deficient - and also like we should NOT be left alone with him because he's about to hack us up in the woodchopper.


photobooth2.jpg

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September 14, 2006

Snippets. No context.

"So what do you want?"
"I want the whole package."
"You want the whole package."
"Yup."
"Husband, kids, picket fence."
"I don't need the picket fence. I'm too urban."
"But everything else?"
"Yup. But I have about two eggs left. I need to get cracking."
Laughter. "You have two eggs left."
"You think that's funny?"
"Uhm, er, no. Not funny at all."

"I reek of Ben Gay."
"It smells like mint."

"I always wondered what Katherine Dunn looked like."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know. I always wondered if she was a dwarf. Or an albino. She seemed to have such an understanding of what is done to those who have some sort of deformity. How they are treated."
"True. But we do the same thing to celebrities - to the freakily beautiful people of this world. They're treated like they are a sideshow in a cage."
"That's so true. Well, as YOU well know."
"Fuck you."

"Dave Eggers is like Quentin Tarantino. He appropriates pop culture, comments on it. And he is REVILED for it."
"I know. So true."
"But at the same time - they are both so generous to talent. They encourage others, Tarantino resurrects people's careers ... Neither of them are selfish in their success."
"I loved Eggers' memoir."
"How about his novel?"
"Hated it."
"Yeah. Uh-huh. But still."
"Totally."
"Right?"
"Absolutely."

"I mean - the Method? Who gives a shit about the Method anymore?"
"I'm of the 'bang bang you're dead' school of acting myself."

"I had a fuck buddy for 11 years."
"You had a fuck buddy for 11 years."
"Yup."
"Uhhhhm. That wasn't a fuck buddy."

"It seems like every year there's only room for one big book to get all the press."
"Uhm. Yes. Underworld?"
"Well, White Noise is one of my favorite novels."
"White Noise is a wonderful book - but Underworld...."
"What about it?"
"Dude. GET AN EDITOR. NOW. It's 1,000 pages long. It was RIDICULOUS. But that book sucked up all the airspace for a good YEAR. I finally read it ..."
"Good?"
"Well - the first 60 pages are spectacular. Seriously. Writing doesn't get any better."
"Really."
"Yup. It's the kinda writing that brings you to your knees. But the rest of it? For God's SAKE, WHY DO I CARE ABOUT THE CHESS TEACHER ON PAGE 800? I don't. I mean, it's a good book -but to be touted as literally the ONLY book to read that year ... No. There was no room for any other book. That's just not right."

"I had some issues with the ghetto bus."
"No!!!!! What is going ON?"
"I wandered around on ... East Boulevard?"
"Boulevard East? Oh for God's sake. What bus did you get on?"
"The ghetto bus."
"No, it was the wrong ghetto bus."
"It's okay. I asked a cop for directions and he ended up driving me home. He was really nice."
"Oh my God. That is horrible."

"So. What. Is the Baby Boomer, like, in his 80s now?"
"No. He's not in his 80s. Jagoff. He's in his 50s. Thank you very much."

"You just didn't see yourself the way I saw you."
"I didn't, did I?"
"Nope."

"And within 5 minutes, I saw Tilda Swinton and Vincent Gallo walk by."
"No way!"
"I NEVER see stars. And within 5 minutes ... I saw--"
"I saw Vincent Gallo's penis."
"We all saw Vincent Gallo's penis."

"My cleavage is completely out of control. It's only 10 am. I'm sorry. It's so inappropriate."
"It's cool. So ... boobs ... wanna get outta here?"

"For some reason, there is a big libertarian streak in the whole magician community."
"Yeah! I've noticed that. Why IS that?"

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September 7, 2006

The universe ...

... sometimes she provides.

My relationship with him was so of-the-moment. The fact that it has lasted is something to be thankful for, in the deepest part of my heart.

Then (many years ago - I was 2 weeks into knowing him here):

photobooth.jpg

to now ...

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September 5, 2006

Humorous moment

Mere showing us one of her karate kicks. She stood up - Beth and I were sitting down - and she began her kicks. We watched, in silence.

But then Beth said, showing where her attention really was: "I love those jeans!"

Mere kept kicking, and said, "Thanks! They're my nice-ass jeans!"

Kick - kick - kick - kick ...

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September 1, 2006

Mitchell will laugh at this one

We have a friend who is a hat designer. Her hats are works of art - they're plushy, crushy, impractical, fun. I have one of my own. They're whimsical and gorgeous. So she was trying to start up her business - she had opened her own studio - so we went to a nearby street fair - all of us WEARING one of her hats - holding fliers and cards - basically being walking billboards for Christina. People were surprisingly really snotty - even though it was a street fair with tons of local artists showing their work. We heard one person say, as we walked by, "Oh. What. Is today Hat Day?" in a really snotty voice. Well, yes, frankly, it IS Hat Day, and apparently it is ALSO Corn-Cob-Up-Your-Ass-Day if your behavior is any clue. Why don't you chill out?? Have fun. Don't be so "over" everything. Sheesh.

Christina, who often said that she "woke up in order to hyperbolize", later characterized this entire experience as: "The Day We Almost Got Killed". Hahahahahaha One snotty comment = bloody murder.

Anyway, there are a lot of funny (and good) pictures of that day - Mitchell took this one. Here we all are on The Day We Almost Got Killed.

hats.jpg

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August 21, 2006

Snapshots with Guy

-- Guy had said, "I'm on the corner of Ashland and Magnolia." So I had my cab driver (who appeared to fall deeply in love with me during the course of our 15 minute ride) drop me off on that corner. It was a quiet residential street. Big beautiful houses with porches (Kate: "and PORCHES...") and lawns and flowers ... cars parked in the streets ... quiet. I looked for the house number. Uhm ... the house number was nowhere to be seen. The cab driver (who, as I mentioned, was now deeply in love with me) left the car idling, watching me wander around the suburban streets like an urban orphan. I finally waved him away, because I could not deal with the strength of his emotions for me, it was way too much pressure. But ... there I was ... on a random street ... uhm ... I felt like screaming out into the quiet: 'GUY????" and see what would happen. Turns out Guy had given me the wrong cross street (he called me) and I had to walk one block down. He was standing out in front of his house ... I could see him ... we were the only two people out. He was like, "What is my problem? I totally gave you the wrong street. I'm an ass."

-- Guy and Sean's dog, Cleo, appeared to fall deeply in love with me. (Maybe it was something in the air that day?) Cleo sat at my feet, back turned to me, as though to say, "Whatever. I am totally NOT madly in love with you right now. I've got a LIFE, lady." But then I would catch her glancing back at me over her shoulder, in a kind of passive-aggressive way. Just to make sure I wasn't going anywhere. Her behavior was so clear. It was so CUTE. She would also jump up on the couch right next to me, and stare at me at point-blank range. For no apparent reason. Just to suck the soul out of my body or something.

-- Guy made gimlets. We ordered Chinese food. Delectable on both counts.

-- Guy is about to go on tour with Sweet Charity and he has the male lead opposite freakin' Molly Ringwald. Please. He gets to kiss Molly Ringwald, and that is pretty much all that needs to be SAID!!So if Sweet Charity comes to your town (I think the tour is starting in San Diego) go check it out!! Guy is amazing.

-- I introduced Guy to "He's a gay dancer boy" - the joke that Mitchell, Jackie and I have had for ... oh ... 15 years?? I can't even remember the genesis of that joke, but we have kept it going for many many many years. The song goes like this: I would sing: "He's a gay dancer boy" and Mitchell and Jackie would sing, as a chorus, "Yeah, he's gay!" And we would repeat ad nauseum. Exeunt. The song has no point. It has no point to make about life, it draws no conclusions. It basically just DESCRIBES something, and then stops right there.

"He's a gay dancer boy--"
"Yeah, he's ga-ay!"
"Oh, hee's a gay dancer boy --"
"Uh-yeah he's ga-ay-ay ..."

Guys. Shut up.

-- Guy did his character known as "MGM Baritone". It has to be seen to be believed. I actually find it rather terrifying - he was singing "Ol' Man River" as MGM Baritone dude - and he came to the part: "Get a little drunk and land in jaaaaaaaail ..." I watched him sing it ... with all the crazy facial contortions (Guy actually left me a phone message about a year ago - AS the MGM Baritone - I could hear Kate laughing HYSTERICALLY in the background ... Guy sang into my phone until the message cut him off. It is one of the funniest messages I have ever received.) But anyway, he sang - in that bullshit MGM Baritone way, "Get a little drunk and ya land in jaaaaaaaaaaaail...." His face was DEAD as he sang those words. It was somehow really terrifying to me. And I shouted at him, "THERE'S NO INNER LIFE! THERE'S NO INNER LIFE!" Please, MGM baritone, get an inner life. FAST. Do you have any FEELINGS about getting a little drunk and landing in jail? Or are you just DEAD inside? Apparently, whenever Guy becomes MGM Baritone now, Sean and Tim have to get up and leave the room, they are so sick of him. hahahahahahahaha

-- We drunk-dialed Kate. Who is pregnant. Nothing like being pregnant and having your friends drunk-dial you. We put her on speaker phone. Guy did MGM Baritone. Kate howled. I'm sure Tim got up and left the room on the other end, like: Oh for God's SAKE, MGM Baritone dude again?? hahahahaha Somehow I brought up our "Even for da babies?" joke - which I then had to describe to Guy. General hilarity ensued. "YOU GOT DA LION KING DOWN THERE??" Kate and Mitchell dancing at Berlin, singing, "Even for da babies - go girl, go girl ...Oh - EVEN FOR DA BABIES - go go go girl ... "

-- We missed Kate and Tim. We missed Sean, too - who is now on tour with Mamma Mia. Guy and I talked a lot about relationships. He and Sean have been together for 9 years. They're an amazing couple. When you're with them, you get that feeling of warmth and love and friendship and compatability so that not only do you think, "Wow, you two are so lucky" ... you yourself feel lucky to know them. That's what it's like. So Guy and Sean are now both on year-long tours - they have split up their home - one dog is going on tour with Guy - one dog is on tour with Sean - and it's stressful and hard to be apart - but great opportunities for both of them. Much talk about all of this. It was great.

-- Oh - and then we watched Blast From the Past - which Guy had never seen. Obviously I have seen it. Ahem. Every time I see it, Christopher Walken seems funnier and funnier to me. "The Politburo ..." his whispering voice, his hatred 6 feet back in his eyes. He's so CAMPY. I love Walken for his campiness. Guy loved, too, seeing Sissy Spacek get to be funny. Drinking her martinis, and slowly losing her mind. And every time I get to the part where Brendan Fraser sees the ocean for the first time, I get goosebumps.

-- Then we started to watch The Celluloid Closet and we both passed out on the couch. I think we might have even passed out simultaneously.

-- I woke up on Sunday at 7 am. Guy had gone off to bed - obviously he had woken up at some point - He left me sheets and a pillow - but - uhm - I slept all the way through the night. Fully clothed, including my bra - which - ICK. I hate sleeping with that contraption on. But the gimlets got the best of me. I woke up with no hangover at all, though. Maybe because we drank water all along with our gimlets??

-- Morning quiet. I was the first one up. I could not find any coffee. This was ... I can't even talk about it. It was so awful. I had to settle for tea. I am such a drug addict. I sat outside with my tea (BAH) and my book (a Georgette Heyer romance, if you MUST know) ... I wrote in my journal. It was early morning. Dew dripping off the grass and all that stuff. Beauty!!

-- Guy eventually woke up and with him came Cleo. Whose love for me only had grown stronger during the intervening separation of nighttime. Oh - and Guy found coffee. I had already basically SCOURED the kitchen ... but I had NOT looked in one of the green china canisters over by the sink. So Guy made a pot of coffee. At the first sip I started to feel like a HUMAN BEING again. Seriously - this addiction is hard-core.

-- Guy and I then watched some stuff on YouTube. We watched Judy Garland sing "As Long As He Needs Me". We marveled at her. We talked about her. Her naturalness - the way she suddenly and compulsively hugged herself at the end of the song - nothing is calculated, nothing looks planned. It's larger than life - and it's almost too raw sometimes to look at - her gestures are spastic ... yet ... they are never EVER manipulated by her. She's extraordinary to watch. Guy said a really great thing: "Every single song she sings - it's like she is going to die the second AFTER she finishes the song." Every song has that intensity - that in-the-moment rawness - that desperation to connect ... Life or death. It's life or death for her. Always.

-- Then we tracked down the classic Grover "skit" from Sesame Street - Grover Near and Far. We HOWLED watching it. His little skinny blue furry body running back into the distance, with his arms flapping, his breath coming in pants ... "Neeeeeeeeear ..." run run run back until he is very small - then Grover SCREAMS, throwing his head back to the sky, "FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR" - etc.

-- We also found the famous opera-singing orange. Guy had not thought of this in - YEARS - so we watched it, and laughed so hard we cried.

-- We sat in the kitchen and became completely mesmerized - as in: we could not move - by the ongoing cross-fading slideshow of pictures on his Mac. Sean had uploaded, uhm, 5,000 photos? And they were in constant rotation. Sean's a wonderful photographer. Guy and I just sat there staring, occasionally commenting - Guy would point out people either I knew or didn't know - telling me where this photo was, where that one was - there were photos of Guy and Sean at the Grand Canyon, Guy and Sean wearing sombreros, Guy and Sean in Sedona, Guy and Sean in Florence, Guy and Sean on the Great Wall of China, Guy and Sean swimming through the oceans of Venus, Guy and Sean catapulting up into space, Guy and Sean tesseracting into another dimension ... The guys have been everywhere. I also saw photos of Kate and Tim's wedding (uhm - which we all were IN) - and I don't think I'd seen ANY photos before! Kate - have I?? They were gorgeous photos. Classic. Absolutely glowing. It was great to reminisce about it. How amazing it was.

-- Eventually, it was time to end our sleepover. We got in the car and headed for Newark - where Guy would drop me off at the Amtrak station. The second we hit Newark - we got lost. We lost track of the signs pointing the way to Penn Station. There were purple signs - with arrows - telling us: Penn Station. Or Federal Buildings. Or Historic Sites, or whatever. Those sorts of landmark signs were all PURPLE. We drove on Broad Street (which lives up to its name - sheesh - it's like a boulevard in a crumbling ex-Soviet state - miles across). But anyway - we were doing fine - following the purple signs - but then suddenly: no more purple signs. We were desperate for a glimpse of purple. "Where are those purple signs?" This, naturally, became a song. Sung to the tune of "Purple Rain".

"Purple signs
Purple signs
I want you to come with me and we'll follow purple signs
Purple signs
Purple signs
Let's keep moving forward and go to the purple signs ..."

Etc. We kind of couldn't stop singing "Purple Signs". Even though we were lost in Newark.

I still can't stop singing it.

"Purple signs
Purple signs
Let's drive on down ol' Broad Street moving to the purple signs ..."

Finally: we got a glimpse of purple. We took a wrong turn. We saw a terrifying tavern. We backed up. We backtracked.

We kept singing:

"Purple signs
Purple signs
Don't keep directions from me, please don't leave me, purple signs ..."

We saw some more purple signs. And next thing you know I was on my way home.

A beautiful weekend with Guy. I feel refreshed.

And remember: keep your eyes peeled for Sweet Charity the tour! Guy will be singing and dancing his way into towns across America with Molly Ringwald on his arm for the next year!

"Purple signs
Purple signs
Good weekend, gimlets, Guy and Cleo, and those purple signs ..."

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April 29, 2006

Phone calls

I'm having a party tonight for my cousins and any O'Malley in a 500 mile radius. My sisters are coming. Cousins and cousins spouses. Sadly, uncle won't be able to make it. I'm cooking. I went shopping. I am also ordering food in. It's a sun-blasted day. I'm sorta blue. Not sure why. This happened the last time I took Diary Friday into the realm of cherished memories - as opposed to just goofy high school stuff. Sometimes it's good to let stuff stay in the past. Also - because I know what comes next ... I read my ecstatic words and feel sort of eerie and sad about it. Existentially sad. Silly, but that's what's happened. I'm listening to Queen right now. "Too much love will kill you". That pretty much sums it up.

And the pain will make you crazy
You're the victim of your crime
Too much love will kill you every time

"The pain will make you crazy". Yes. It did. That ecstatic frenzied girl was headed for a crash that wiped everything out for a good long while. So that's what I sense in those diary friday words ... I sense the wave approaching. It's disturbing - even though, duh, I was there, and I lived it, and it's over now.

Also I threw a bunch of stuff out today ... I got rid of a bunch of cassette tapes (!!! Yes! I still have tapes!) - I have all these mix tapes given to me by people throughout my life. My sisters, my brother, etc ... but also ... digging thru them I saw handwriting I didn't recognize ... Some of them are mix tapes given to me by guys I don't even remember - a guy I went on one or two dates with - a guy I dated for 2 weeks - whatever ... but in that space of time they were able to make me a mix tape. Ghosts. Throw 'em out.

And then I also found a tape that I (believe it or not) totally forgot I had. It has my scribbling on the "liner notes" - and it says: Phone calls. The second i saw those words I remembered what this tape was. I kept this tape going during a really lonely time in my life - not even lonely - I was haunted. And I would keep a recording of answering-machine messages that I wanted to save. So ... I could listen to them later? So ... I could have evidence? I don't know. But I made the mistake of listening to that tape this morning. I still can't throw it out ... Recordings of long-ago messages left for me from ex-boyfriends ... you know. The triumvirate. What a horrible idea. To keep a record of those calls AND to listen to it years later. There's a marriage proposal there. A serious one. From a guy I've mentioned on this blog before, but I won't name him here - just respecting his privacy. The marriage proposal came from out of nowhere - we hadn't seen each other in years. But he meant it - and the whole thing made a strange sort of sense. I must have called him back a couple of times ... and got no response from him (can't remember) because the next message from him is: "Leave it to me to ask you to marry me and then promptly disappear." When I listened this morning, I burst out laughing at that part - his deep sexy voice saying that. I ended up flying out to meet him so we could talk about this marriage thing. Because I was considering it. For many reasons. Rainy morning, we had breakfast together, stacks of pancakes, and I remember I had on saddle shoes, like Lucy van Pelt. This whole scene just came flooding back to me when I listened to that message from years ago. We sat across from each other in a booth, and I put my feet up on the seat opposite. I told him I would marry him. He ate my leftover pancakes. We talked about marriage, and we were freaked out. Rain pounded against the windows of the diner. I hadn't seen him in years. We went back to Mitchell's apartment. Mitchell ended up yelling at us because we were waffling on this marriage thing. After the pancakes? Waffles, apparently. He and I were sitting on the couch together and Mitchell lectured us sternly. "I think the two of you should spend the rest of your lives together. What the hell do you want from me?" hahahaha Mitchell was tired of us. We were tired of us.

Funny memories. But not so funny this morning.

When I saved those messages I had no idea that they would act as such eerie time-travelers.

I laughed as I listened to the tape ... there are some very funny messages on there ... but afterwards, I felt very weird. I looked around and looked at my apartment and thought: Where am I?

I am looking forward to seeing my family. Having O'Malleys raging through my apartment will remind me of the present ... will make my NOW seem real. But for now?

Haunted.

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April 26, 2006

And then there are moments ...

rare moments .. when it still strikes me as ... miraculous ... that I was able to go on, and not just go on but to create something out of that mess. To write it down - but not just in a diary, or private scribbling - but in a way that made it almost immediately apparent that it needed to be shared.

And so I have.

And so the specific has become universal. People respond to that piece from out of their own lives. It's about my life. I wrote it. But people have very personal responses to it ... it brings up their own memories, thoughts, feelings ... That's not WHY I wrote it, but that's what has happened. And I created that. I'm still kind of ... amazed. Like ... I don't know, it's my life - most of you out there don't know me - I can only speak from what it's like inside my head, and ... there were times when I thought I would literally never ... Well. I still don't think about it too much - it's really not good to dwell on it. But ... that I have taken that experience - so searingly vivid, an experience that pretty much burned me up like a torch - something that I was sad about for YEARS - and turned it INTO something ... into art ... is truly amazing. To me. This is not something I take for granted. I'm not bragging, either. I am just kind of proud, and humble ... and still ... rather surprised that I have been able to do such a thing.

I didn't set out to do this, when I wrote that thing in one sitting at 3 am one awful white night of the soul. I set out to explain myself to myself and to put myself in order and to try to find some goddamn peace. I found the FACTS to be peaceful. I needed peace. I was in agony. So no - I didn't sit down, thinking: "Hm. I should create a show out of this horrible experience! Let me MAKE IT INTO SOMETHING." But here I am ... performing the damn thing. Left and right. Willy nilly. Arms akimbo. No, just kidding. I just like the word "akimbo".

He (the guy it's about) is the first one who read the piece. People who don't know me personally (but who have seen me do the piece, or who have read it) are surprised when I've told them that. I can see why if all you know about it is the piece itself, you'd be surprised. That there would be any contact and that he could actually READ THAT!! Like, literally: people's jaws have dropped when I have said casually, "Yeah, he was actually the first one I sent it too." People gape at me. "What did he say???"

Their context is limited. They know what I tell them. Which is just the piece itself. Which is purposefully ambiguous. It was hard to choose what to leave out - but I knew it needed to be really bare-bones. Anyway - there is a sweetness to people's (strangers who have seen the piece) concern for me ... and also the discombobbled looks on their faces when they hear that "he" has read it. hahaha

I know the piece ends on a sad note - and he has his own sad note - but the rest of the piece is so FUNNY and I wanted it to be such an acknoweldgement of him and how funny he is, and how lovable I find him - that I figured: You know what? This'll be weird. But I want him to read it. I don't feel right about sending this out to magazines and performing it if he hasn't read it. It's just not my game. That's not what this is about for me. 74 Facts is not about blame or anger or bitterness. When the tide rolls back, leaving a space of calm in its wake ... all that is left is love. Well, maybe a couple twinges of regret and sadness. But mainly: it's about love. And if someone I loved wrote a piece like that about me I know I'd sure as hell want to read it.

So I sent it to him. With a sort of cringingly gentle note: "Uhm ... I wrote this about you ... don't be scared ... it's not bad ... It's actually really funny ... uhm ... til the end ... but you know the end ... "

hahaha Something along those lines. I mean, I didn't want him to think I had written a piece with his NAME as the title - Like: SO AND SO, AND WHY HE'S AN ASSWIPE. I mean, no. I could see why that would be a fear, though - so I just cringingly wrote a letter and sent it off.

Five days later my phone rings. It is one o'clock in the morning. We never speak. We never call each other. I don't even know his number. I pick up the phone and I hear GUFFAWS of laughter. He is driving. It is late at night. And he is GUFFAWING. "I read it ... hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha The midgets! Oh my God ... the fucking Titanic thing ... hahahahahahahahaha"

And then we spent the rest of the conversation just laughing about all of our goofy moments. I know it's hard to believe, but that's what happened.

He didn't IGNORE the ending. We spoke about that a little bit ... but for the main conversation, we just reminisced and howled with laughter about all of the silly memories I had brought up. The lack of midgets in the world "these days", his anger at backwards baseball caps, the Riverdance mania ... He was crying with laughter.

I couldn't sleep that night I was so exhilarated. I felt as though I were weightless. The love was intense. But it was without pain now. Because it was expressed - and we could SHARE it. We could laugh and laugh and laugh at what goofballs we had been, and how funny those old times were ... and I didn't hang up the phone and curl up into an agonized ball of regret. I hung up the phone, still laughing.

This astonishes me to this day.

I became my own healer. That's what happened. And it was through art, sure - it was through getting the shattered pieces in order so that I could write it all DOWN ... but it was also through sharing it. With him, and with everybody.

I've never known anything like it.

One of my great acting teachers had a really cool thing to say about "sublimation" that I've never forgotten. His name was Doug Moston [actually, side note: that's a pretty cool link - he died recently and his students somehow found that post and started posting their memories of him - I finally had to close the post because of F*&%ING SPAMMERS ... but still - it became a kind of gathering-place for people who missed him - I got a ton of email, it was just really really cool - SO glad I wrote that piece]

Anyway, he said that he thought "sublimation" was very under-rated. He was a big fan of it. Now this so goes against the grain of our "talk it out" culture - that everything should be talked about, nothing should be sublimated, sublimation is BAD ... it equals: repression.

So I was very curious as to his thoughts on this. He said, "Here's what I mean by sublimation. You take your pain - and you make it sublime."

I'm not sitting here and telling you my work is sublime. I certainly FEEL sublime when I'm doing the piece - it's an intensely joyful experience to do it - but that's not the same thing. Moston was hinting at something much much deeper, I think. The true meaning of the word "sublime".

I don't even want to name it. It should remain mysterious.

I will say this ... it has something to do with the fact that when "he" called me after reading it - a piece that basically explains his broken heart and mine - he was literally howling with laughter over the phone. What??? And it has something to do with the fact that we both just laughed our way through that conversation - going line by line through my piece ... reminiscing, snorting with laughter, guffawing, interrupting each other, gushing, moving on ... We had never spoken about ANY of that stuff. Everything had ended so sadly. But there I was - handing him back all of his COMEDY to him on a plate. It has something to do with that. It surprises people who only know the story as I told it in that piece. But this happened also. It is sublime.

It's love, really. Love without needs or demands. It sucks, on some level, of course. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Every time I do the piece it's just another opportunity to express that guffawing laughter over the phone, to share that bright comical spirit with others. The last time I did it, a small hunched-over man who had to be almost 80 came up to me afterwards. He had a hearing aid in, he walked with a cane, and he had big bushy eyebrows. He touched my arm and said, in a thick New York accent, "I feel like I want to know that guy!" Tears filled my eyes as I thanked him.

My specifics. Become universal. How on earth has that happened?

Ahhhh. And that is why I do this. That is why I do this.

I was writhing in psychic agony as I wrote that piece. That's not an exaggeration. I was writhing at my desk. The fact that the piece came out so funny is just another example of ... the terrible complex beauty of sublimation.

I don't know how to end this. I just know I've been wanting to talk about that piece. I hesitate to say too much, for many reasons.

I guess I'm just proud of it. Proud of my creation and what I'm doing with it.

Posted by sheila Permalink | Comments (9)

April 22, 2006

The best day: Ithaca, New York

You know those days that, for whatever, reason, take on a soft perfect glow in your memory? It may not even be a momentous day - like your wedding, or the birth of your child - it might be a day where nothing all that huge happened but it's a day where everything was in alignment, where joy seemed like the natural response to being alive, when all things felt RIGHT. I had one such day in Ithaca, and it's all there ... in photographs. Strangely, the photos seem to capture the sort of chaotic happiness and open-hearted freedom that was ours that day. So often photographs pale in comparison to the real thing - and indeed, the real thing in this case was far more vivid, and heart-throbbingly beautiful. We all just pulsed with life. I don't know what it was ... but the four of us just clicked into something that day. It was the best day. One of my best days ever.

So this will be a photo essay of that one day.

Michael and I were in a play in Ithaca and we were dating. Life was awesome.

The rest of the cast - Pat, Laurie, and Ken - were all fantastic and we became fast friends. In looking back on it - one of the fun things about this cast was that we were all kind of throwbacks. I can't really describe it any other way. We weren't "over" things, we weren't cynical. I mean, we're human beings, we had our bad days ... but we settled into this very Pleasantville-esque existence in Ithaca. We ate at diners and befriended waitresses. We drank black coffee. We didn't party like maniacs, but when we did go out, we drank whiskey and played trivia. Very old-school. Michael and I found a weekly 70s dance party that we attended with religious fervor. It was a non-alcoholic event and that was fine by us. We were there to put on our dancing shoes.

Laurie loved playing cards and continuously roped Michael and me into playing with her. The two of us just weren't into playing cards. It wasn't our thing as a couple. We were more into lying on a blanket in the park and reading books. But Laurie would beg and plead - "Come on! Play!!!"

So below are two photos.

One is a picture of Michael and me backstage. The second photo makes me laugh out loud. It is a photo of us - taken by Laurie - during one of our forced card games. We were SO unhappy to be playing cards. Michael's face makes me laugh out loud.

backstage.jpg

Notice my 'do. I worked HARD on that 'do. I played the trashiest slut to ever walk the earth. Sharla is bad BAD news. She gets her comeuppance in the end - but not before she wreaks havoc on every life she touches. I love that photo because, oh, I don't know ... I can SMELL backstage in that photo.

hahahahahahahahahahahaha

cards.jpg

hahahaha

I also enjoy that he and I are dressed like twins. It was all about the flannel and the glasses. My glasses are on crooked. I have become undone by the fact that I DO NOT WANT TO BE PLAYING CARDS. My eyes are PISSED.

We had one day off a week - Mondays. Laurie ended up acting as our tour guide director. There would be no lethargy! One Monday we took a tour of all the Ithaca waterfalls. One Monday we hiked up to Cornell. We reveled in our days off. Laurie did a little research on the wine country surrounding Ithaca and suggested that we do a little wine-tasting tour. It was October, the leaves were aflame ... it would be great to see the countryside. Ken's girlfriend had come to visit (it's a hard life being in an out-of-town show when your girlfriend is back in Chicago and the rest of the cast has coupled up!!) so he didn't come with us.

But on that flaming red and orange October day, Laurie and Pat (who had started dating as well) and Michael and I got into Pat's beat-up car and set out to do some wine-tasting!

We were on a field trip! We were giddy!

Here we are starting out on our journey.

wine2.jpg



Please notice that I am wearing the same shirt I wore in the backstage photo, as well as in the card-playing photo, as well as in the seesaw photo earlier. I loved that shirt as much as I loved my soft blanket I had when I was a kid. The shirt was a soft plushy flannel, it was comfortable, and I pretty much never took it off. Oh, and Michael - who had never had a taste of alcohol before - dribbled wine down on his shirt during the subsequent tour and had to change his clothes. The sight of Michael getting tipsy for the first time was one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life.

One of the reasons I loved Michael (and still love him) was that he didn't have a pretentious bone in his body. Whatever, we were wine tasting, that didn't mean he felt the need to act snooty or to rein in his particular brand of insanity. Our hysteria just mounted through the day, as we kept drinking wine. I eventually had to leave one of the wine-tasting events because I could not keep back the laughter, and I actually snorted into the solemnity of the moment.

But here we are ... arriving at our first winery.


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I love how, in these photos - throughout the day - everyone is in motion. It's rare that any of us just stood and posed for a photo - we were always moving, walking, running, talking ...

For some reason, Michael in that first photo makes me laugh out loud (AGAIN). Something about his pose, his attitude ... He looks a bit adrift. He so is not about to adjust his personality, just because we're at a wine-tasting event with wine snobs!


Pat was an awesome guy. We became really good friends. He smoked like a chimney, he was mainly a comedian but he was playing Killer Joe in this play - the terrifying hired killer who infiltrates this family. He was amazing. Killer Joe is the one who discovers that Sharla has been betraying them all and he punishes her in the most brutal and humiliating way possible. Onstage. He and I didn't know each other at all when we started rehearsal so doing that scene was quite an odd thing. I remember the first time we really did it - in rehearsal. He stood over me, I was on my knees - it's a very violent scene ... I started weeping - but he kept going, as he should ... It's the part. Killer Joe has no conscience. Well, he probably has more of a conscience than Sharla does - but his is a rough frontier brand of justice. You fuck with me, bitch? I'll bring you to your knees. Tears didn't move him. Pleading for your life didn't move him. It was a tough scene and I never got used to doing it. Which was why it was good. Sharla thinks she has gotten away with it. And, like a cobra stalking its prey, Killer Joe waits, waits, waits ... and then, in one devastating moment, strikes. And Pat - who was a tough guy, the kind of guy I really relate to - he's like all the men in my family - tough but with a heart of gold - had to put aside his own sense of compassion and reticence in order to do the scene. You know the kind of guy who knows his own strength? And so he is even more responsible about using that strength? Pat was that guy. So the first time we really HIT the moment with the scene - the first time we really clicked into it in rehearsal - was inTENSE. I was crying, begging for mercy, he was choking me, and laughing evilly in my face, and I was fighting him, but he was holding me down ... Awful. To not be able to get away. You know, we went there. The director then called out from the dark, "Okay, stop ..." We both stopped. I wiped my tears off, but I was curled up on the floor - Pat, with the gentleness of a father, with the kindness of a good good man, reached his hand down to me, and helped me stand up. He had this strange ashamed look on his face, but we both knew we had nailed the moment. That was the moment. His hands, which had been around my neck, were suddenly soft and manly - firm and kind - He held his arm around my waist, and said, in a kind of shy amused way, "This is a very strange sensation ..." It was like he faced his own capacity for violence ... That's the beauty of acting in those moments. You get to act out the stuff you suppress as an upstanding citizen of society. We all have violence in us. Most of us do not act on it. Pat's a tough dude, man - you do not want to get in a fight with Pat - but like I said: he knows that, and so he holds back. He's responsible with himself. I loved Pat.

Pat was only a couple years older than Michael but he took on a kind of older brother thing with Michael. They're still friends. It doesn't surprise me at all. There was none of that posturing competitive shit between them (well, there was at one specific moment ... but that had to do with me, so it doesn't count) - They didn't beat their breasts like gorillas, or try to be alpha male. They just were buddies. They cracked each other up. They complemented each other.

I give you this background merely as a set-up for the following photo.

wine5.jpg

Michael, like I said, had never had a sip of alcohol before that day. This is Michael after one glass of wine. I laugh out loud looking at it today. And look at Pat, being patient with Michael, who apparently is reaching out - in order to say some deeply drunken and profound thing.

We moved on to the next winery. Another huge drafty barn. Pumpkins, gourds, sheafs of wheat, dusty bottles ... We stood around, sipping wine, pretending to "taste" it ... and savor it ... when really, let's be honest, we were just guzzling.

Which explains the quality of my next photo.

wine8.jpg

A sort of group hysteria was escalating. We were having so much fun, and we were all enjoying each other so much, that we found ourselves at this level where everything was funny. Everything was beautiful. We were one. The four of us were one. Nobody was being a drip. Nobody was wishing that the rest of us would stop giggling and snorting and BE SERIOUS. We all were just having a blast. The wine person would set out glasses for us. We all would slowly take sips. I would glance at Michael, and see him pretending to take it seriously ... He would have that "look at how serious I am being" face on that he wore during the card-playing extravaganzas ... He would nod seriously at the wine person, mutter something about "yes, the smoky aftertaste, right ..." and then throw back the entire glass in one gulp.

Because it was Halloween time - at one of the wineries we went to there was a ghost hanging from the ceiling. If you pulled on the ghost, it would make this swooning "Whoooo-hoooo-ooooo-ooooo" sound.

Michael loved Halloween. I think it was his favorite holiday. He loved ghosts and witches and goblins and all that. He was FASCINATED by this rigged ghost. He stood beneath the ghost and KEPT pulling on it so that the "Whoooo-hooo-hoooooo" sound KEPT swooning through the air of the winery. It was almost like he was an autistic child. He could not stop pulling on the ghost. There were other people in the winery, people who actually, you know, took wine seriously, and who were taking tiny sips with no irony, and musing over the bottles ... and over in the corner was Michael, pulling on the ghost insistently for, I am not kidding, about 15 minutes.

Laurie had HAD it. She finally said, "Michael ... yes ... the ghost is cool ... PLEASE STOP PULLING ON IT."

Michael's response was to call over his shoulder in the general direction of the winery employees (I am literally shaking with laughter as I type this), shouting, "How much for the ghost?"

I can't take it.

I still can't take it.


wine7.jpg


We moved on to our third and final winery. The sun was starting to go down. It was the time of day known in the movie business as "the magic hour" - the fleeting hour when the lowering light glows against the earth, when the rays are long, the shadows longer, and when everything, indeed, takes on a certain magic. The air was cool, crisp ... the leaves burning in the light of the sunset. We were sloshily tipsy ... not trashed ... just that soft mushy wine-drunk. It was perfect. One more glass and all of us might have been in deep trouble. As it was ... it was just perfection.

As a group, we bought a couple of bottles of wine.

Then we headed back out to the car ... we thought we would be heading back into town straightaway, not realizing that the fields across the road would literally CALL to us to come to play.

I adore the photo below - not sure why - it's rather random, but something about it is so suggestive.


wine9.jpg



First of all, you can just see the magic of the magic hour light ... not as much as you can in the later photos when we really hit the perfect moment ... but it's begun. You can see how the shadows are cool and nighttime-ish where we are, but if you look over to the left, you can see how the sun is GLOWING on the field across the street.

I also love how Pat, Laurie and Michael are walking - they're all tilting different ways. The photo FEELS like they're wine-drunk. Like they're all just reeling drunkenly towards the car. But in such a friendly way. Not WASTED. No. We were not wasted. We were punch-drunk. We were tilt-a-whirls. That photo shows our meandering perambulatory ...

The winery walk.


Instead of getting in the car, we basically hung out BESIDE the car and that's when things got nuts.

Here's a photo of Pat and me.

wine6.jpg

Words cannot even express how much I love this picture. It's so in the moment. It captures, first of all, our friendship - we were kindred spirits, the two of us ... we "got" each other ... we come from the same background ... and there we are. But also, it's one of those photos that truly captures a feeling, a fleeting second of time. I have no idea what was going on there, and what we were saying and doing ... but it's a photo that captures a specific moment. It makes me laugh.

You can see a scar above my left eyebrow. How did I get that? I got that from the curling iron while I was making my Farrah Fawcett curls one night before the show. I wasn't really good with a curling iron, obviously. I burned my damn head.


At the car, we all kind of just dissolved. I mean, our personalities dissolved. We lost it. We cracked up. Collectively. We all were taking pictures. We were shouting at each other. We were howling with laughter. The fields glowed across the street. But not yet ... not yet ... It wasn't time yet to run into the gold. There was too much to DO beside the car.

Like ... er ... this ...

wine10.jpg

Or this ...

The paparazzi ... embodied by Pat ... who appears to be following Laurie around ... snapping pictures ... we are in the PARKING LOT of the WINERY.

Just so we're clear on that.

Again, notice the blurriness of everyone ... due to the non-posed nature of the photo ... and the general craziness that took over the 4 of us ...

wine11.jpg

The following four photos are a series. I mean, honestly, look at them. They go together, don't they? How could you separate one from the other?

wine12.jpg

wine13.jpg

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wine14.jpg

The first one is so riotous that I still don't know what to do with myself. I just ... love those two guys so much. I can't stop laughing. And the one where Michael is obviously squatting and clutching Pat's leg ... what is going on there?? I have no idea but I know that it made PERFECT sense (in a drunken way) to us at the time. Chaos. We were out of control. The laughter was intense. I love these, too, because they capture the goofy relationship between Pat and Michael.

And I've gotta just say this. The last photo in the series? Michael? Rowr.


The next one kinda says it all.

I mean ... what else can I say. Uhm ... yeah.

wine15.jpg

That last photo is a perfect segue. We couldn't get into the car and go back into Ithaca after THAT!!! The fields across the street glowed in the magic hour so we wandered over there ... for a romp. As you can see, there is more blurriness.

wine17.jpg

It appears that Laurie and Michael are attacking Pat ... running at him with pummeling fists, as he's just trying, for God's SAKE, to light his 50th cigarette of the day. Would you guys just let me do this, please??

Just LOOK at that glow in the air - the shadows, the gold, the vista .... stunning.


God. I just want to swoon into that light. Just look at it.

wine18.jpg

Perfection. Transcendence. A cosmic moment, uplifting, all brought about by our mutual regard for one another, and an afternoon of red wine. God, how I loved those two men. LOOK AT THEM. LOOK AT THEIR BEAUTY.

Later, Pat said to me, "That was so cool when you just started running ..."

Magic hour also means crazy hour. It went to my head. It was too much. I had to somehow get it OUT. I had to EXPRESS it. I had to MOVE. The sun was going down. The shadows were violet and cool but the sun's rays were long and golden, and we could see for miles and miles. The woods were ablaze.

It was too much sensation ... I was going to EXPLODE! So I took off ... and just started RUNNING through the fields. By myself. I ran .... and ran ... and ran ... and Pat, Laurie, and Michael all started screaming ... an exhilarating moment for some reason ... shouting, screaming, bursts of adrenaline ... there she goes ...

wine20.jpg

Once I started running, an epidemic of random running spread, until all four of us were running like tasmanian banshees, circling the field, criss-crossing, jumping, ambushing each other, breaking free ...


Michael took off, running, trying to catch up with me. Pat took this picture.

wine19.jpg

Look at the line of shadow in the field ... gold and then dark.

Takes my breath away still.


Pat and Laurie chased each other through the fields. We all were screaming. Michael was trying to catch up with me, to tackle me, basically. At some point, during this free-for-all, Michael got Pat's camera ... and took the last two photos of this series.

She's comin' at ya ...

wine21.jpg

Closer ...

wine.jpg

The light in that first photo slays my heart. It's like every blade of grass is distinct. Touched with gold.

And that last photo is my favorite. Not because I'm vain but just because the photo itself is perfect. It's perfect in composition, the light on my face and how it hits it, the flame of my hair and all that ... but it's perfect because it is the culmination of that perfect day, and it is the perfect expression of my feelings in that moment and my feelings for Michael. That's how I felt when I was with him so there, in that photo, I am just GIVIN' IT TO HIM. How often do we have photos like that? Also, it's perfect because it's spontaneous.

And the next moment? The moment that came after that last photo? It can probably be guessed. I had grass stains on my jeans the next day from rolling around in the magic-hour field with Michael, kissing him, pulling him on top of me, the two of us rolling around in the grass, laughing and devouring each other. If anyone had driven by that glowing golden field at that very moment, they would have seen 2 couples - dark against the gold - separated by a respectful distance - lying in the grass ... cameras discarded ... and deeply involved in their own private communion with one another ... which would have to end when the magic hour ended ... Of course.

Magic can't last.

But for now? For this fleeting moment in time? The couples are together. They roll around in the grass, hugging, kissing, laughing ... sometimes calling out to each other ... one couple reaching out to the next ... but more often than not, engrossed ... completely engrossed in the other.

The moment is eternal because the cameras captured it. Or at least that's how it feels. That best day is long gone and the 4 of us are scattered to the winds now. But there we are ...

It feels like, on some plane of existence, we'll be running thru that golden field forever.

Posted by sheila Permalink | Comments (3)

The best day: part 1

Michael and I were in a play in Ithaca and we were dating. Life was awesome.

The rest of the cast - Pat, Laurie, and Ken - were all fantastic and we became fast friends. In looking back on it - one of the fun things about this cast was that we were all kind of throwbacks. I can't really describe it any other way. We weren't "over" things, we weren't cynical. I mean, we're human beings, we had our bad days ... but we settled into this very Pleasantville-esque existence in Ithaca. We ate at diners and befriended waitresses. We drank black coffee. We didn't party like maniacs, but when we did go out, we drank whiskey and played trivia. Very old-school. Michael and I found a weekly 70s dance party that we attended with religious fervor. It was a non-alcoholic event and that was fine by us. We were there to put on our dancing shoes.

Laurie loved playing cards and continuously roped Michael and me into playing with her. The two of us just weren't into playing cards. It wasn't our thing as a couple. We were more into lying on a blanket in the park and reading books. But Laurie would beg and plead - "Come on! Play!!!"

So below are two photos.

One is a picture of Michael and me backstage. The second photo makes me laugh out loud. It is a photo of us - taken by Laurie - during one of our forced card games. We were SO unhappy to be playing cards. Michael's face makes me laugh out loud.

backstage.jpg

Notice my 'do. I worked HARD on that 'do. I played the trashiest slut to ever walk the earth. Sharla is bad BAD news. She gets her comeuppance in the end - but not before she wreaks havoc on every life she touches. I love that photo because, oh, I don't know ... I can SMELL backstage in that photo.





hahahahahahahahahahahaha

cards.jpg

hahahaha

I also enjoy that he and I are dressed like twins. It was all about the flannel and the glasses. My glasses are on crooked. I have become undone by the fact that I DO NOT WANT TO BE PLAYING CARDS. My eyes are PISSED.




Part 2

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The best day: part 2

We had one day off a week - Mondays. Laurie ended up acting as our tour guide director. There would be no lethargy! One Monday we took a tour of all the Ithaca waterfalls. One Monday we hiked up to Cornell. We reveled in our days off. Laurie did a little research on the wine country surrounding Ithaca and suggested that we do a little wine-tasting tour. It was October, the leaves were aflame ... it would be great to see the countryside. Ken's girlfriend had come to visit (it's a hard life being in an out-of-town show when your girlfriend is back in Chicago and the rest of the cast has coupled up!!) so he didn't come with us.

But on that flaming red and orange October day, Laurie and Pat (who had started dating as well) and Michael and I got into Pat's beat-up car and set out to do some wine-tasting!

We were on a field trip! We were giddy!

Here we are starting out on our journey.

wine2.jpg



Please notice that I am wearing the same shirt I wore in the backstage photo, as well as in the card-playing photo, as well as in the seesaw photo earlier. I loved that shirt as much as I loved my soft blanket I had when I was a kid. The shirt was a soft plushy flannel, it was comfortable, and I pretty much never took it off. Oh, and Michael - who had never had a taste of alcohol before - dribbled wine down on his shirt during the subsequent tour and had to change his clothes. The sight of Michael getting tipsy for the first time was one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life.

Part 3

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The best day: part 3

We arrived at the first winery. The sun was a blinding blue. It was a massive drafty barn and there were only a couple of other people there.

One of the reasons I loved Michael (and still love him) was that he didn't have a pretentious bone in his body. Whatever, we were wine tasting, that didn't mean he felt the need to act snooty or to rein in his particular brand of insanity. Our hysteria just mounted through the day, as we kept drinking wine. I eventually had to leave one of the wine-tasting events because I could not keep back the laughter, and I actually snorted into the solemnity of the moment.

But here we are ... arriving at our first winery.

wine3.jpg


wine4.jpg



I love how, in these photos - throughout the day - everyone is in motion. It's rare that any of us just stood and posed for a photo - we were always moving, walking, running, talking ...

For some reason, Michael in that first photo makes me laugh out loud (AGAIN). Something about his pose, his attitude ... He looks a bit adrift. He so is not about to adjust his personality, just because we're at a wine-tasting event with wine snobs!



Part 4


Posted by sheila Permalink

The best day: part 4

Pat was an awesome guy. We became really good friends. He smoked like a chimney, he was mainly a comedian but he was playing Killer Joe in this play - the terrifying hired killer who infiltrates this family. He was amazing. Killer Joe is the one who discovers that Sharla has been betraying them all and he punishes her in the most brutal and humiliating way possible. Onstage. He and I didn't know each other at all when we started rehearsal so doing that scene was quite an odd thing. I remember the first time we really did it - in rehearsal. He stood over me, I was on my knees - it's a very violent scene ... I started weeping - but he kept going, as he should ... It's the part. Killer Joe has no conscience. Well, he probably has more of a conscience than Sharla does - but his is a rough frontier brand of justice. You fuck with me, bitch? I'll bring you to your knees. Tears didn't move him. Pleading for your life didn't move him. It was a tough scene and I never got used to doing it. Which was why it was good. Sharla thinks she has gotten away with it. And, like a cobra stalking its prey, Killer Joe waits, waits, waits ... and then, in one devastating moment, strikes. And Pat - who was a tough guy, the kind of guy I really relate to - he's like all the men in my family - tough but with a heart of gold - had to put aside his own sense of compassion and reticence in order to do the scene. You know the kind of guy who knows his own strength? And so he is even more responsible about using that strength? Pat was that guy. So the first time we really HIT the moment with the scene - the first time we really clicked into it in rehearsal - was inTENSE. I was crying, begging for mercy, he was choking me, and laughing evilly in my face, and I was fighting him, but he was holding me down ... Awful. To not be able to get away. You know, we went there. The director then called out from the dark, "Okay, stop ..." We both stopped. I wiped my tears off, but I was curled up on the floor - Pat, with the gentleness of a father, with the kindness of a good good man, reached his hand down to me, and helped me stand up. He had this strange ashamed look on his face, but we both knew we had nailed the moment. That was the moment. His hands, which had been around my neck, were suddenly soft and manly - firm and kind - He held his arm around my waist, and said, in a kind of shy amused way, "This is a very strange sensation ..." It was like he faced his own capacity for violence ... That's the beauty of acting in those moments. You get to act out the stuff you suppress as an upstanding citizen of society. We all have violence in us. Most of us do not act on it. Pat's a tough dude, man - you do not want to get in a fight with Pat - but like I said: he knows that, and so he holds back. He's responsible with himself. I loved Pat.

Pat was only a couple years older than Michael but he took on a kind of older brother thing with Michael. They're still friends. It doesn't surprise me at all. There was none of that posturing competitive shit between them (well, there was at one specific moment ... but that had to do with me, so it doesn't count) - They didn't beat their breasts like gorillas, or try to be alpha male. They just were buddies. They cracked each other up. They complemented each other.

I give you this background merely as a set-up for the following photo.

wine5.jpg

Michael, like I said, had never had a sip of alcohol before that day. This is Michael after one glass of wine. I laugh out loud looking at it today. And look at Pat, being patient with Michael, who apparently is reaching out - in order to say some deeply drunken and profound thing.

Part 5

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The best day: part 5

We moved on to the next winery. Another huge drafty barn. Pumpkins, gourds, sheafs of wheat, dusty bottles ... We stood around, sipping wine, pretending to "taste" it ... and savor it ... when really, let's be honest, we were just guzzling.

Which explains the quality of my next photo.

wine8.jpg

Part 6

Posted by sheila Permalink

The best day: part 6

A sort of group hysteria was escalating. We were having so much fun, and we were all enjoying each other so much, that we found ourselves at this level where everything was funny. Everything was beautiful. We were one. The four of us were one. Nobody was being a drip. Nobody was wishing that the rest of us would stop giggling and snorting and BE SERIOUS. We all were just having a blast. The wine person would set out glasses for us. We all would slowly take sips. I would glance at Michael, and see him pretending to take it seriously ... He would have that "look at how serious I am being" face on that he wore during the card-playing extravaganzas ... He would nod seriously at the wine person, mutter something about "yes, the smoky aftertaste, right ..." and then throw back the entire glass in one gulp.

Because it was Halloween time - at one of the wineries we went to there was a ghost hanging from the ceiling. If you pulled on the ghost, it would make this swooning "Whoooo-hoooo-ooooo-ooooo" sound.

Michael loved Halloween. I think it was his favorite holiday. He loved ghosts and witches and goblins and all that. He was FASCINATED by this rigged ghost. He stood beneath the ghost and KEPT pulling on it so that the "Whoooo-hooo-hoooooo" sound KEPT swooning through the air of the winery. It was almost like he was an autistic child. He could not stop pulling on the ghost. There were other people in the winery, people who actually, you know, took wine seriously, and who were taking tiny sips with no irony, and musing over the bottles ... and over in the corner was Michael, pulling on the ghost insistently for, I am not kidding, about 15 minutes.

Laurie had HAD it. She finally said, "Michael ... yes ... the ghost is cool ... PLEASE STOP PULLING ON IT."

Michael's response was to call over his shoulder in the general direction of the winery employees (I am literally shaking with laughter as I type this), shouting, "How much for the ghost?"

I can't take it.

I still can't take it.


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Part 7

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The best day: part 7

We moved on to our third and final winery. The sun was starting to go down. It was the time of day known in the movie business as "the magic hour" - the fleeting hour when the lowering light glows against the earth, when the rays are long, the shadows longer, and when everything, indeed, takes on a certain magic. The air was cool, crisp ... the leaves burning in the light of the sunset. We were sloshily tipsy ... not trashed ... just that soft mushy wine-drunk. It was perfect. One more glass and all of us might have been in deep trouble. As it was ... it was just perfection.

As a group, we bought a couple of bottles of wine.

Then we headed back out to the car ... we thought we would be heading back into town straightaway, not realizing that the fields across the road would literally CALL to us to come to play.

I adore the photo below - not sure why - it's rather random, but something about it is so suggestive.

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First of all, you can just see the magic of the magic hour light ... not as much as you can in the later photos when we really hit the perfect moment ... but it's begun. You can see how the shadows are cool and nighttime-ish where we are, but if you look over to the left, you can see how the sun is GLOWING on the field across the street.

I also love how Pat, Laurie and Michael are walking - they're all tilting different ways. The photo FEELS like they're wine-drunk. Like they're all just reeling drunkenly towards the car. But in such a friendly way. Not WASTED. No. We were not wasted. We were punch-drunk. We were tilt-a-whirls. That photo shows our meandering perambulatory ...

The winery walk.




Part 8

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The best day: part 8

Instead of getting in the car, we basically hung out BESIDE the car and that's when things got nuts.

Here's a photo of Pat and me.

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Words cannot even express how much I love this picture. It's so in the moment. It captures, first of all, our friendship - we were kindred spirits, the two of us ... we "got" each other ... we come from the same background ... and there we are. But also, it's one of those photos that truly captures a feeling, a fleeting second of time. I have no idea what was going on there, and what we were saying and doing ... but it's a photo that captures a specific moment. It makes me laugh.

You can see a scar above my left eyebrow. How did I get that? I got that from the curling iron while I was making my Farrah Fawcett curls one night before the show. I wasn't really good with a curling iron, obviously. I burned my damn head.




Part 9

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The best day: part 9

At the car, we all kind of just dissolved. I mean, our personalities dissolved. We lost it. We cracked up. Collectively. We all were taking pictures. We were shouting at each other. We were howling with laughter. The fields glowed across the street. But not yet ... not yet ... It wasn't time yet to run into the gold. There was too much to DO beside the car.

Like ... er ... this ...

wine10.jpg

Part 10

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The best day: part 10

Or this ...

The paparazzi ... embodied by Pat ... who appears to be following Laurie around ... snapping pictures ... we are in the PARKING LOT of the WINERY.

Just so we're clear on that.

Again, notice the blurriness of everyone ... due to the non-posed nature of the photo ... and the general craziness that took over the 4 of us ...

wine11.jpg

Part 11

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The best day: part 11

The following four photos are a series. I mean, honestly, look at them. They go together, don't they? How could you separate one from the other?

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The first one is so riotous that I still don't know what to do with myself. I just ... love those two guys so much. I can't stop laughing. And the one where Michael is obviously squatting and clutching Pat's leg ... what is going on there?? I have no idea but I know that it made PERFECT sense (in a drunken way) to us at the time. Chaos. We were out of control. The laughter was intense. I love these, too, because they capture the goofy relationship between Pat and Michael.

And I've gotta just say this. The last photo in the series? Michael? Rowr.




Part 12

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The best day: part 12

The next one kinda says it all.

I mean ... what else can I say. Uhm ... yeah.


wine15.jpg

Part 13

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The best day: part 13

That last photo is a perfect segue. We couldn't get into the car and go back into Ithaca after THAT!!! The fields across the street glowed in the magic hour so we wandered over there ... for a romp. As you can see, there is more blurriness.

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It appears that Laurie and Michael are attacking Pat ... running at him with pummeling fists, as he's just trying, for God's SAKE, to light his 50th cigarette of the day. Would you guys just let me do this, please??

Just LOOK at that glow in the air - the shadows, the gold, the vista .... stunning.



Part 14


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The best day: part 14

God. I just want to swoon into that light. Just look at it.

wine18.jpg

Perfection. Transcendence. A cosmic moment, uplifting, all brought about by our mutual regard for one another, and an afternoon of red wine. God, how I loved those two men. LOOK AT THEM. LOOK AT THEIR BEAUTY.

Part 15

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The best day: part 15

Later, Pat said to me, "That was so cool when you just started running ..."

Magic hour also means crazy hour. It went to my head. It was too much. I had to somehow get it OUT. I had to EXPRESS it. I had to MOVE. The sun was going down. The shadows were violet and cool but the sun's rays were long and golden, and we could see for miles and miles. The woods were ablaze.

It was too much sensation ... I was going to EXPLODE! So I took off ... and just started RUNNING through the fields. By myself. I ran .... and ran ... and ran ... and Pat, Laurie, and Michael all started screaming ... an exhilarating moment for some reason ... shouting, screaming, bursts of adrenaline ... there she goes ...

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Part 16

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The best day: part 16

Once I started running, an epidemic of random running spread, until all four of us were running like tasmanian banshees, circling the field, criss-crossing, jumping, ambushing each other, breaking free ...


Michael took off, running, trying to catch up with me. Pat took this picture.

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Look at the line of shadow in the field ... gold and then dark.

Takes my breath away still.




Part 17

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The best day: part 17

Pat and Laurie chased each other through the fields. We all were screaming. Michael was trying to catch up with me, to tackle me, basically. At some point, during this free-for-all, Michael got Pat's camera ... and took the last two photos of this series.

She's comin' at ya ...

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Closer ...

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The light in that first photo slays my heart. It's like every blade of grass is distinct. Touched with gold.

And that last photo is my favorite. Not because I'm vain but just because the photo itself is perfect. It's perfect in composition, the light on my face and how it hits it, the flame of my hair and all that ... but it's perfect because it is the culmination of that perfect day, and it is the perfect expression of my feelings in that moment and my feelings for Michael. That's how I felt when I was with him so there, in that photo, I am just GIVIN' IT TO HIM. How often do we have photos like that? Also, it's perfect because it's spontaneous.

And the next moment? The moment that came after the photo? It can probably be guessed. I had grass stains on my jeans the next day from rolling around in the magic-hour field with Michael. If anyone had driven by that glowing golden field at that very moment, they would have seen 2 couples - dark against the gold - separated by a respectful distance - lying in the grass ... cameras discarded ... and deeply involved in their own private communion with one another ... which would have to end when the magic hour ended ... Of course.

Magic can't last.

But for now? For this fleeting moment in time? The couples are together. They roll around in the grass, hugging, kissing, laughing ... sometimes calling out to each other ... one couple reaching out to the next ... but more often than not, engrossed ... completely engrossed in the other.

The moment is eternal because the cameras captured it. Or at least that's how it feels. That best day is long gone and the 4 of us are scattered to the winds now. But there we are ...

It feels like, on some plane of existence, we'll be running thru that golden field forever.

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The best part about the photo below ...

... is our complete and utter LACK of ironic distance. We were actually enjoying the seesaw. This was not a posed photo. Or, obviously we turned to the camera, but we had already been seesawing for a good 10 minutes before any witnesses showed up, and before that photo was taken.


I'll be posting more in this one particular photo series later.

wine22.jpg

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Weird dates: Tadeusz and John Kennedy

I've certainly had some weird dates but nothing as weird as THIS. It's a whole movie. I love that he was a "vampire" from Iceland. So perfect.

Update: Mitchell went on a date or two with a guy from Poland whose name was Tadeusz and he had pale skin, delicate violet shadows beneath his eyes, and seemed extremely Eastern European ... as though he had just crawled out through the wreckage of the Berlin wall, with stories too horrible to tell. He told me I reminded him of his dead sister, and how "a shock went through me when I first met you" because of the resemblance. All of this said in a thick Polish accent. We referred to him as a "vampire" because he said something to us like, "I don't like the daylight." "Do you want to go throw a Frisbree around tomorrow afternoon, Tadeusz?" Long pause. Then, flatly, thick accent, "I don't like the daylight."

Mitchell and I eventually turned the whole thing into a joke, singing along to James Taylor's "Shed a little light" - only we would sing:

"Shed a little light, Tadeusz!"

Update again: I went on one date with this guy ... and the date itself was not weird ... but why he asked me out (and the mere fact that he asked me out) struck me as very weird at the time. Now I realize that he and I were just behaving like every 1940s movie cliche in the book (although 1940s movie heroines don't use words like "fucking asshole" - However most of them look like they COULD!). Mitchell and I were hanging out one night at a bar/improv club. Two guys came over to talk to us. One looked exactly like John Kennedy (the father, not the son). We began a conversation. John Kennedy was extremely obnoxious and seemed determined to just needle me, and tease me, and "wind me up". He must have felt that this was a good courtship technique. He was condescending, superior, and laughed in my face when I would be serious. He seemed incapable of believing that a woman could ever have anything valuable or funny or interesting to say. Ick. Mitchell turned away from the conversation at one point, talked to someone else for 15 seconds, turned back to OUR conversation only to see that I had started SHOUTING at John Kennedy. I don't remember exactly what it was - it had something to do with rape, and him saying he thought rape wasn't a big problem and that most girls "ask for it" - I know it was something like that - nice first topic of conversation, buddy - and he just wanted to see me go nuts ... and I had had it with his condescension, and his arrogance, and his utter lack of social skills, and I called him a "fucking asshole" to his face. This all happened in the 15 seconds that Mitchell was not involved in the conversation. hahahaha Mitchell immediately leapt in the middle of it and tried to smooth things out. I said something to the dude like, "You know you might have more success with the ladies if you toned down your goddamn arrogance and learned how to listen instead of just lecture. Jagoff." And I walked away. The second I was gone, he said to Mitchell, "Can you give me her phone number? I'm totally attracted to that lunatic." hahahaha 1940s cliche!! The guy actually was a nice guy. It was just that - his idea of flirting was to put girls down, laugh at them when they were serious, condescend their opinions, and in general be a dickhead. He WAS flirting, though. Mitchell gave him my phone number. (Our phone number, we lived together.) He called me the next day and we went out. The "sparks" that flew in our first conversation did not survive during a normal date - which is probably a good thing, because who wants to argue about RAPE on a date? He was now on his best behavior, and so was I ... so we sat awkwardly, and had a couple beers, and he tried to give me a backrub (uh oh - BACKRUB BOY ALERT!) and the whole time I was thinking: "I wonder if I can make it home by 11 when 30something is on."

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April 10, 2006

Jackie snapshots

In honor of her birthday, which was yesterday.

-- "Where is the delivery boy with that fabric morgue??"

-- "I had to wear 40 fuckin' corsets on that shoot. 40 fuckin' corsets."

-- "I was married to that Nazi bastid for 30 years and I got NOTHIN'."

-- Tequila shots and Caroline

-- Doing a production of My Cup Ranneth Over - one of my favorite college productions I ever did. And, like, 40 people saw it.

-- At an open mike with her in Chicago. A fuse blew - and the entire bar was plunged into darkness. We were there with Window-boy. There were all these musicians there, with guitars that needed to be plugged in, the microphones didn't work - no electricity - so the open mike came to a stop - Mayhem ensued. Window-Boy yelled thru the dark at the organizer, "Hey, there's an a capella group over here!!!" Meaning Jackie and I. So Jackie and I made our way to the stage - PITCH BLACK - the place was packed - people were still drinking - the cash register happened to be an old-fashionied manual one - so you could hear the pounding of the keys - and Jackie and I sang our entire repertoire, a capella, until the lights came back on. One of the most magical nights of my entire time in Chicago. You could have heard a pin drop in that place while we were singing.

-- Jackie and I worked in a factory after college. We had to be "on the line" at 6 am. Which meant Jackie had to come and pick me up every morning at 5:15. The headlights of her car pulling into the drive. Coffee in the darkness. Grim silence between us. We sat on the assembly line all day. We met up by the lunch truck on our breaks, to commiserate, share our misery. What on earth were we thinking?

-- Our Sunday night dates when I first moved to Chicago: We would walk down the street to My Pie (only the "pie" was spelled with the sign for Pi) - and we would have a mug of beer each, and share a pizza. My favorite pizza joint in Chicago. Then we would walk back to her place and pull the TV out of the closet (she kept it in there for the majority of the time) - to watch Life Goes On - a show we were completely addicted to.

-- "He ripped my brown wool leg-wraps."

-- Oh. The carnage we caused.

-- All the men we dated. The HOURS of conversation about them. Meeting up for coffee, or drinks .. to talk about this or that man. Supporting each other. Laughing. Crying. Whatever. Just there for each other. I was there on the day she kind of "discovered" that she loved the man who is now her husband. A magical freezing day. They weren't even dating yet ... but something shifted that day. Something shifted.

-- I sang at their wedding.

-- Jackie and Mitchell came to a Halloween party dressed as Jackie's grandparents, Chester and Millie. Chester and Millie were just FAMOUS to all of us. And there they are. That is one of my favorite photos of my friends EVER. TAKEN. There is so much that is delicious about it. Look at the anxiety in Mitchell's eyes. Like ... Chester doesn't know WHAT is going on, and he feels a little bit out of his comfort zone. He is frightened. And look at Jackie's face. Her mouth is open. Her hand pats Chester's arm comfortingly. WHAT IS SHE SAYING TO HIM? It's hilarious. She is so obviously soothing Chester. "It's all right, dear, it's all right ..."

-- There was one infamous day in Chicago when I had double-booked myself. I had a date in the afternoon with one guy, a date in the evening with another guy, and I was stressing out. I was talking with Jackie about it on the phone, and in the middle of the conversation, I got another call and it was a THIRD man calling me up to ask me out for the NEXT day. I am not bragging. It was actually not even a pleasant experience. I felt like: ARGH, all on one weekend? I don't even LIKE dates!! I hung up with Third Guy and clicked back over to Jackie, and filled her in. "That was Third-Guy. He wants to go out tomorrow." There was a short pause and Jackie said in a flat emotionless voice, "You are a burning icon in the Chicago sky."

-- One night Jackie and I decided to walk to the beach, in Rhode Island, to see the sunrise. It was a 7 mile walk. This is a story I NEED to write down. The adventures that Jackie and I have ... it's like ... WEIRD stuff happens when we're together. Crazy stuff.

-- We were the first to come upon a drunk driving accident once, on a lonely country road, at midnight. We saw a car on its side. It had obviously been coming from the opposite direction, came into our lane, went up on the field embankment, and flipped. It was freaky to be the first ones there. We clearly heard someone moaning in the car. Jackie went running up to one of the dark houses ... and banged on the door, shouting for them to call for an ambulance. Within minutes, the entire fire department, police department, and EMT staff came screaming out of the country dark. Jackie and I ended up standing up on a nearby grassy knoll, watching the entire thing. There was a wasted fat gentleman standing up in the car - which was on its side. So he was standing, with his feet on the passenger window, banging against the driver-window which was now above his head. His belly was protruding and hard - a serious beer gut. He looked like he was trapped in a fish tank. He could have not only fucking killed someone, but he could have killed US. If we had come around that corner 15 seconds earlier, he would have smashed right into us. So I have no sympathy for him. He's lucky he's alive. Another car came along, and decided to stop and watch - because the whole road was blocked off. Two really cute and friendly college guys stood and watched, and ended up joining Jackie and I on the grassy knoll. MUCH flirting then occurred. We were shamelessly flirting at the scene of a drunken car accident. Jackie and I roared about this later. The EMTs finally got the guy out of the car - and he put up a struggle - A policeman scolded him, saying, "You need to do what we say, sir." And fat-drunk man uttered these now-mythic words - "I hear ya, trooper!" He said it in a jolly tone, a cooperative tone, a buddy-buddy tone. Also, let's add on the Rhode Island accent. "I heah yah, troopah!" To this day, Jackie and I still use "I heah ya, troopah" in normal everyday conversation. "I mean, I'm just really upset right now ... do you hear what I'm saying?" "I heah yah, troopah."

-- We got to have an enormous stage fight that opened the show of Edwin Drood. I actually got to flip Jackie over a ledge, and she plummeted down through the air. (A mattress was placed at the bottom - out of sight of the audience - for her to land). Can I tell you how fun it was to have a raging FIGHT with Jackie? We rolled down stairs together. We stamped on each other's feet. We shouted obscenities - in thick Cockney accents. We chased each other up and down the aisles. It has to be the most fun I've ever had on stage. So RIDIDCULOUS. And the ending was always the best. When I just grabbed onto her (in a highly rehearsed way, of course) and flipped her over the ledge. hahahaha Also, we were dressed up in mid-19th century Music Hall get-ups - with huge feathers coming out of our heads, and flashy petticoats, and heaving bosoms, and sillks and taffetas - slutty-looking (those Music Hall girls were often prostitutes) and yet - with some of the charm of the era. Not showing EVERYthing. So the two of us - in our Music Hall outfits, and outlandish makeup - beating the crap up out of each other. GLORIOUS!!!

-- Morning after a wine-drenched debauched night. Jackie, Brooke and I lay in my bed. Aching with our hangovers. This was in college. We were HURTING. Jackie slowly opened her eyes, perceived her condition for a silent moment, and then stated, flatly, "You could tap my liver and feed communion to a small Catholic church."

-- "Jeremy, wipe your wicked ass." No way can I ever explain that story - and how it came about - but I can already hear the guffaws from David and Mitchell from here!!


Oh, there's so much more!!!

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April 6, 2006

My stomach still hurts ...

from the WAVES of laughter that consumed all of us last night. We could not stop laughing. Everyone was funny. We were in the big room at Panchito's - sprawled on couches around a table - and this poor couple, who thought they might have a quiet date in that big room (empty before we arrived) were basically chased out by our raucous NOISE. I can't even explain it. We came home afterwards, and I felt HIGH. Laughing like that is good for the soul, mind, body ... You just get it all OUT. I'm still laughing.

I woke up and the first thing I thought of was Rachel saying:

"So 'My soul is dying in this relationship' really means 'Can I have the car keys?'"

Yeah, you had to be there. But I'm still laughing.

Alex KEPT becoming Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. It was like she had Tourette's. "Barbara, PLEASE." She would shout it over her shoulder. She would mutter it to herself. She would say it at point-blank range. She shouted it, she crooned it, she moaned it.

Our waitress was awesome, by the way. Candace, if you ever read this: we love you. We lucked out in having you serve us! A Southern girl - she and Alex (brought up by her mother, a true Southern girl herself) bonded on pouring pounds of sugar into your tea. Candace dealt with us with grace, humor, aplomb. She didn't even mind when Alex shouted "BARBARA, PLEASE" right in her face.

Mitchell scat-singing the following words: "Make a full pot ... what we don't drink we'll ice ... MAKE A FULL POT ... put it on ice ... put it on ice ... Make a full pot, and what we don't drink we'll ice ..." He BECAME Louie Armstrong for a good 10 minutes. We all were literally SHRIEKING with laughter. Poor Jen. I thought she might die from it. Tears were streaming down her face.

"Make a full pot! What we don't drink we'll ice ..."

HOWLING.

Go read Alex's account of it.

Oh, and I love that in my group of friends saying "Go straight to hell" to someone or "You are such an asshole" is literally the highest praise you can give that person. I feel HONORED when Alex shouts at me, "Go straight to hell!" I literally blush with shy pleasure and pride when Mitchell looks at me and says, "You are such an ASS."

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April 3, 2006

Quotes from Mitchell

Said to me with utter seriousness:

--"Patty Duke is not the avatar of angry.

I said to him, "Did you actually just say the word 'avatar' in my house? How dare you."

--"Tempest Bledsoe has all kinds of attitude."

I still can't stop laughing about that one. Like ... we're PISSED at Tempest Bledsoe for having "all kinds of attitude". We're PISSED that Tempest Bledsoe has not learned a little humility. Guys. It's Tempest Bledsoe. Calm down. Also: Tempest Bledsoe????

-- And then last night - after we turned out the light ... we had been talking a bit about The Surreal Life ... yadda yadda, no big deal ... Then there was a brief pause. And Mitchell said, totally seriously, and also ... he sounded a little bit pissed-off about it:

"What is Bronson Pinchot's problem?"

And - those words lay in the room for about 15 seconds ... nobody said a word ... and then we feckin' LOST IT. We could not stop laughing. We HOWLED into the night.

Random actors and actresses, has-beens, and never-wases ... inhabit our minds. We keep up with each other in this regard. Very very rarely do we have to say "Who?" Or ... if I have to say "who?" (and it is usually me) - then Mitchell will immediately start to list credits, and he'll say SOMEthing I recognize.

We watched Entourage ... An older actor shows up. Mitchell says, "Is that David Paymer?" Of course I know who Paymer is. "I don't think it is." "Didn't Paymer die this past year?" "Did he?" The next thing I know I glance over at Mitchell, sitting at my laptop, and all I see on the screen were the words: "BIOGRAPHY OF DAVID PAYMER". Why does that make me laugh so hard???? Turns out it WASN'T David Paymer, but another older character actor - who Mitchell remembered from Tales of the City, a gazillion years ago.

So if any of you are mistaken on any of these points, here's a re-cap:

Patty Duke is NOT, contrary to popular belief, the avatar of angry.

Tempest Bledsoe has all KINDS of attitude.

And what the hell is Bronson Pinchot's problem??

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April 1, 2006

Martini snapshots

-- We listened to Dream Girls. "A-and I am teeellling you ... IIIIIIIII'm NOT gooo-in ... you're the best man I've eeeeeever known ...." Holy crap. We used to listen to Dream Girls constantly in college - we would put it on at parties ... and to listen to it again and again. Man. It's just as good as it ever was. Can't WAIT for the movie with Beyonce!!!

-- We listened to Al Green. We LOST OURSELVES in Al Green.

-- We watched (or tried to watch - my laptop kept stalling) Barbra's first Christmas special. Black and white. She was 22. She wore a sailor dress. Classic Barbra. A total phenom. Nobody like her - before or since. Because my laptop kept stop-starting the action, it made it look like Barbra was doing kabuki. But what a voice. What a presence. Goosebumps!

-- We drunk-dialed 5 people, 3 of them ex-boyfriends of mine. We left raucous messages on answering machines, and voice mails ... We only remembered some of this this morning. "Wait ... who did we call last night??" We called Luisa. We left her a long-ass message. "Luisa ... I am drunk, and I am calling you ... and this is my bear to cross. It's MY bear to cross ... not yours." Once we started calling people, we couldn't stop. Only one person was home ... and he just laughed and laughed at the image of Mitchell and I, wasted, calling him to say hi. "Hi!! How are you?? We are SO drunk-dialing you right now ... what's up?" Howls of laughter from the other end. It was only 10 pm by the way - it wasn't like we were calling people at 3 in the morning. Like that makes it BETTER.

-- At one moment ... the hilarity stopped. Quickly. The martinis hit. We only had two a piece but ... within a 20-second time period, we both became absolutely flattened. It was like we no longer had any bones. We flopped towards the bed, moaning: "Omigod, I am so wasted right now ..." "When did THAT happen?" We passed out. It wasn't even midnight yet.

-- This morning, Mitchell saying, "Who the hell do we think we are??"

-- Good times, good times.

-- To anyone I drunk-dialed last night, please know: it was all from love, nostalgia, and alcohol. Please take it in the spirit it was meant.

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March 29, 2006

Ann Marie and I met before we met, actually ...

In honor of my dear friend Ann Marie's birthday - here is an enormous post. There's a lot here that has nothing to do with Ann Marie ... but it's the extenuating circumstances ... and the fact that she was THERE as all of this stuff began. We didn't even know each other yet ... but the fact that she was THERE always seemed very very significant to me.

It was a big night, the night when we met before we actually met. Later, when we became friends, we would describe such a night as "cosmic tumblers clicking down" - but that is just me getting ahead of myself. The future unfurled from that one night ... only I, being in the present moment, could have had no idea about that. I met people that night who would end up changing my life. But it took months - and sometimes years - for the whole thing to play itself out. An extraordinary night. My first night "out" in Chicago.

I moved to Chicago in late January, having fled from LA as though I had committed a crime there. Yes, the Westfalia gave me some problems. And yes, when I left at the airport, I saw a black-paper-cut-out silhouette, a harbinger of doom to come. Things were not good, to say the least. But was that any reason for me to literally sell all of my possessions, except for my books, and RUN to Chicago?? Well, frankly, yes.

I arrived in Chicago during a snowstorm. I was going to stay with my friend Jackie until I could get on my feet again. I had one bag of clothes, and a sleeping bag. I am a cliche. I arrived in Chicago with ONE BAG and a hundred bucks to my name. My books were all in storage in LA, until I could send for them. All I had was jeans, a couple sweaters, a toothbrush, and some underwear. That was all I needed. It was a momentous moment. The first time in my adult life that I actually CHOSE something. At least that's how I see it. Up until then, everything had happened by default. But Chicago I CHOSE. I was in a state of heartbreak, my first relationship having crashed and burned. Jackie's apartment was a place of healing, and a place of RIOTOUS laughter. I could relax there. When I was ready, when I had saved up enough, I could get my own place. This was all a very good plan.

Except that we both got bronchitis almost immediately upon my arrival.

Jackie and I lay in her apartment, as the snow swirled down outside, and just SUFFERED. Jackie kept murmuring, putting her hand on her throat, "I have flaming tiki torches in there ..."

We suffered the tiki-torch torment for a MONTH. Neither of us had health insurance, of course, so we just battered it back with cold meds from Walgreens, and orange juice, and vitamins. (Uhm - Xenu?) There were times when it felt like we would never be well. We had a Sunday night ritual: we would watch Life Goes On, our favorite show. We LIVED that show. It was the season of Chad Lowe (marvelous work from him!!) and when Becca really came into her own. We LOVED it. We lay on her couch, enduring the tiki torches in our throats, and watched the show, croaking out our comments.

That was my introduction to Chicago. I was single for the first time in 3 and a half years. I was dealing with an awful breakup - my now ex-boyfriend calling Jackie's house to talk about how sad he was, how much he missed me - dealing with the fact that a new life was now beginning for me. So of course I got TOTALLY sick, which put off the inevitable moment of: "Whoo-hoo, I'm single, I'm young, let's go out and meet some MEN!"

Finally ... finally ... after being sick for the entire month of February ... Jackie and I started getting better. Slowly but surely. We were chastened by our shared illness, we were terrified of having the tiki torches return ... so we took it really slowly. I signed up with a temp agency, and immediately started getting work. I would put on my one skirt, and my one nice sweater, and go off to some office in the Loop and answer phones. I had only been to Chicago once before for less than 24 hours. I had moved there pretty much on a HUNCH. I had good friends there ... but I just had a HUNCH about Chicago. That I would love it.

Manuevering the Loop, strolling into these plush offices, answering phones ... completely new surroundings ... a completely new LIFE ... it was such a vivid and surreal time. I was still sick - the effects of bronchitis holding onto me with a death-grip ... but getting better every day. I saved every penny I made. Then came the coup. My ex-boyfriend sold the Westfalia and sent me half of the money. Which - well. It was so nice, and to this day I feel like I owe him one. That chunk of cash (and it was only, like, 300 bucks - the Westfalia was BEAT UP from our cross-country journey) made it possible for me to move into my own place. Finding an apartment in Chicago was easy, easy, easy. I found a studio (in the building where Jackie used to live ... I had stayed with her when we drove through Chicago on our way out west) - and moved in. I had no furniture, people. None. I slept on the floor IN MY SLEEPING BAG. I had no pots, no pans, no tables, no towels, no drapes, no NOTHING. It took me a couple months to furnish the place. I was in no rush. What did I care? I had my own place! My very first own apartment!! I had my priorities straight. I signed my lease, and immediately (at least that's how I remember it - as immediately) downtown to the Animal Rescue League to get a cat. It was my dream to have my own cat. The cat I ended up getting deserves a post all his own - which I should do someday. I named him Sammy - he was already an adult. I can barely write about him without feeling all emotional. Anyway, I had to come pick him up the following day so he could have all his shots and stuff like that. But then I took him home - in a little crate - sitting on the L train, with poor Sammy mewling piteously from within the box.

And then there we were ... in my dark little studio a block away from Lake Michigan ... with no furniture ... just a sleeping bag and my suitcase ... and Sammy tiptoeing around the joint, staring around him with wide green eyes radiating alarm. Could it be??? thought Sammy. Could it be that I have come home to stay?????? I would wake up in the middle of the night, lying on the floor in my sleeping bag, to see Sammy perched on my pillow, right beside my head, staring into my face with huge glimmering eyes. hahahahaha He was at point-blank range. Just STARING at me. He had obviously had a hard life. Someone had messed with him before I got there. I would be like, "It's okay, Sammy ... you don't have to get into that crate again ... You get to stay here." (Sammy thinks: Uhm ... in an empty apartment? Uhm ... thanks???)

Anyway, sorry - this is supposed to be a post about my friend Ann Marie ... and how we met before we met ... but all of this stuff comes to my mind when I think about that first night. It was a momentous time for me. I was going on instinct ... for the first time in my adult life. Not since I was 8 years old did I just sit down, think: "Hmmm. What do I want to do right now?" and then go ahead and DO it.

I started auditioning. I got cast in something right away. This was another thing that would end up being momentous - and, if you trace it back, if you look at all the connecting links ... that experience in that show is what eventually, years later, would get me to move to New York.

I don't know ... something was definitely going ON with me in those first months in Chicago, albeit at an unconscious level. I was tapping into something. The cosmic? Perhaps. I didn't FEEL like it ... but looking at the end results, I know now that I definitely was.

Jackie had moved to Chicago a year before, and had been taking improv classes at Improv Olympic, which, at that point, was just a start-up - not the monolith that it is now. It didn't have its own theatre, like it does now - it had a space above the Wrigleyside Bar. Jackie kept telling me how fun the shows were, and how - when we got better - when the damn savages carrying the TIKI TORCHES in our throats strolled back into the jungle from whence they came - we should go to a show. "So many cute guys, Sheila! It's so much fun!!"

So finally, in mid-March, we were ready. We were healed enough to feel that a night out, and a couple of drinks, would not plummet us back into illness.

Not to be weird, but I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we didn't go to the improv show THAT night, but went another night. I sometimes actually SHIVER at the prospect. If I hadn't met Phil, then I wouldn't have gone out on that one date with Phil, where he took me to see Pat McCurdy ... If I hadn't gone to that one show, then I would not have heard of Pat McCurdy which meant that I would not have gone BACK to his show months later ... which then meant that I would not have met Ann Marie again ... and eventually become best friends with her ... and eventually perform at Milwaukee Summer Fest with Pat AND Ann Marie AND Phil ... and ... and ... and ... There are SO many things that were made possible from that first night out in Chicago (a couple things I haven't even mentioned yet), and I literally SHIVER to think of how close I came to having these beautiful things not happen. It's more cosmic than I am even saying, because some things are sacred to me, and not something I choose to share. But this random meeting, with this beautiful nice smiling man named Phil, made SO many other things possible - that I literally feel like I will be in his debt forever!! If Jackie and I had decided to go to the improv show the NEXT night - then maybe Phil would not have been there, which meant that Ann Marie would not have been there ... which ... God forbid. Literally my whole LIFE would be different now ... in more ways than I can even describe. Creepy. To be able to locate a moment when, almost casually, and without your knowing, your entire future is in the balance. I mean, who knows ... maybe I would have discovered Pat McCurdy all on my own ... and maybe I would have befriended Ann Marie ANYway, even without the Phil connection ... but ... the chances are slim.

I'm getting ahead of myself again, but it's hard not to ... when thinking about that amazing night ... when I met not one, not two, but THREE people who would end up changing my life SIGNIFICANTLY. And not immediately, either ... it would take some time for all of those cosmic tumblers to even START clicking ... but the future was set into motion that night.

Jackie and I, giddy at our newfound HEALTH, primped ourselves into oblivion. It was like we had just discovered the joy of lipstick. It was like we had just discovered the FREEDOM of blow drying our hair. We were going OUT! We were leaving the sick den! We were going to ... revel in our own health!!! We were going to ... omigod ... have a beer. Everything had a novelty to it. We had been sick for so long. I had not experienced the nightlife of Chicago. I had not been single in so long. The night was RIPE with possibility!

So off we went to the Wrigleyside - a place I will always have such affection for. So much happened there. But this night was the first. And the way the whole night played out ... was pretty much the way it ALWAYS was there. It was a place of adventure.

Jackie and I sat in the audience, and just had so much fun that we were nearly hysterical. We had been released from a prison of illness. We were out of our minds. My cold beer was literally the best thing I had ever tasted in my life. I sipped it nervously at first, teeny tiny sips ... fearful that at the first HINT of alcohol, the savages would come tearing out of the jungle, brandishing a conflagration of raging tiki torches ... but everything seemed okay. My body was able to handle the intake of a bit of alcohol. Life was good!!

Now, a couple of things I remember - they seemed random at the time, but in reality? They were all part of the cosmic tumblers clicking down. Maybe tapping into the cosmic requires a bit of unselfconsciousness, trust, and a LACK of awareness that ANYTHING cosmic might be going on. By that I mean: people who walk around saying, "It's meant to be!" or "Everything has a reason!!" (or "I can feel that this is the year I will meet my soulmate!!") may actually be cutting OFF their access to the cosmic - because they are so insistent on seeing everything as cosmic. Bear with me. There are only 2 or 3 people who read me (uhm -David?) who I think will know JUST what I am talking about. Sometimes those who parrot "It's meant to be" endlessly are not really thinking about what they are saying. Is it really meant to be? Does EVERYTHING happen for a reason? Tell that to Anne Frank. Oh, but wait - you CAN'T tell that to Anne Frank - CAUSE SHE WAS KILLED. Sorry, the "everything happens for a reason" attitude makes me cranky if it is the parroted response to any event, any where. It connotes intellectual laziness, more often than not - an unwillingness to really think about things, and contemplate the fact that shit sometimes JUST HAPPENS. Okay - so you see where I'm coming from? I'm not an anarchist, and I do believe that there are patterns ... we just need to get up high enough to see the patterns ... and very few people can do that. So I was not sitting in that improv club, thinking: "Everything happens for a reason!!" It is only in retrospect, looking back, that I think: "Holy God, something was really going ON that night!"

So here's what I remember.

I remember being very taken with one of the performers. Immediately. He was sooooooo funny, and had a great energy - a huge infectious smile. Very talented guy. He was on one improv team, and before they performed, he sat out at a table in the audience with a couple friends. Every time I looked over there, I saw all of them just HOWLING with laughter. I liked him. I liked how he laughed. Turns out, his name was Phil.

I felt like I was being released from prison, and not just because of the bronchitis. I had been tear-soaked for MONTHS because of my long-drawn-out breakup ... I hadn't been able to even THINK about how fun it would be to be single again! But suddenly, sitting there in the Wrigleyside, I started to feel this shimmer ... this shimmer of excitement ... Like: back in the mating dance again. If I'm interested in that guy over there ... then I just need to subtly send him signals I'm interested. I couldn't do that when I was in a relationship!!

I was not aware that I was sending signals - but apparently he wasn't the only one who picked up on the pheromonal flashing. Uhm ... many others became aware of me. And I swear: I was just sitting at my table with Jackie, having a beer. But ...

Now there is so much else that is weird here - but I won't tell all yet. All in good time.

Here's what happened, and I just so happen to have my journal entry from that moment (member this, Ann Marie??) I've put in initials for one person (M.) - which will become pertinent later. Jackie, since she was taking classes there, knew all of the performers - at least by sight - The same guys performed every week. She pointed them out. "And that's Phil ... and over there is M., the hottie of the improv club ..." Okay, ya got that? Onward to my pheromonal flashes FROM THE AUDIENCE.

The improv had to do with telekinesis and reptilian creatures taking over the earth. The man with telekinesis ended up in a disco. It is so pathetic that there are NO woman in the company. M., I guess, felt that the situation needed to be rectified, because he stood there in his bow-legged stance, and said in his booming bass voice: "BUT ... but ... there were no women at this club! So ..." and then suddenly - oh God - he looked down at me - Me - in the front row and said, "SO HE FORGED OUT TO FIND ONE!" And then the telekinetic individual (whose real name was Ian, I think) jumped off the stage and came SMACK over to me and promptly began trying to use his telekinetic powers on me. I was thrilled yet horrified. Did they plan this? It felt planned to me, as in: "Let's get that orange-haired chick in the front row."

M. watched the telekinetic guy try to press his brain waves into mine for a fruitless minute, and then he became Narrator Man again. "And wasn't it interesting? She - a woman - resisted him. When everyone else succumbed, she was immune to his powers." M. then screamed at the top of his lungs: "SO HE AND HIS FRIENDS FORCED HER TO DANCE WITH THEM!" The entire cast swooped off the stage, surrounded me, lifted me up out of my seat as though we were at a seance, and they carried me up on stage whooping like banshees. Disco music started blaring around us, all of the guys formed a circle around me and disco-danced AT me like maniacs, shrieking the lyrics right in my face. Suddenly I was in the middle of a telekinetically-influenced all-male disco. The audience was going crazy. Finally, they released me and let me go sit back down.

I suddenly got this weird feeling that they were all very aware of me. I just knew that, for whatever reason, I had been discussed. I felt like I was being watched.

This may sound like the thought process of a very vain girl - but it turns out I was right - which I found out later from multiple sources. There was a male pow-wow backstage - "Who is that redhead in the front row? Does anyone know her? Where did she come from? Let's get her." I KNEW it. I could feel it. I had been ambushed.

After the show, everyone trooped downstairs to hang out in the bar of the Wrigleyside. General drunken mayhem ensued. Again, I felt like I was being watched. M. sat at the bar - and I just felt like he was aware of me. Now that's insane - but pheromones are strong and ... I could feel that even though he WASN'T LOOKING AT ME ... he knew exactly where I was at all times. It seemed a little bit crazy that I would think that but I wasn't used to being single anymore - I wasn't used to knowing what kind of signals I was giving out.

And then of course there was Phil. The smiling handsome man I had been so taken with.

Here's what I wrote in my journal:

I peeked over at Phil who had gone over to the two girls who had been in the audience, obviously good friends of his. He had a cigarette stuck behind one ear and a friendly happy smile ... We ensconced ourselves by the jukebox and with my radar detectors I saw Phil. I saw M.. And I remember feeling, or knowing, that some of the guys were as aware of me as I was of them. I had no idea why this would be. Funny, though: I got none of those I-am-aware-of-you vibes from Phil. He was hanging with the 2 girls who had come, drinking beer.

Jackie eventually went off to the bathroom and I sat alone, listening to music, looking around, feeling very conspicuous. And my eyes happened to fall on Phil at the very moment he decided to charge over and talk to me. I thought: "He must be on his way to the bathroom. He wouldn't be coming over to talk to me." But then there he was, leaning across my bar, demanding of me, "WHO ARE YOU?"

I banged my fist on the bar and demanded back, "WHY does everyone in this improv group seem to know who I am? What did I DO?"

He said, "I don't know, man - who are you? Do you take classes here?" He called me "man" - why was I charmed by that? I don't know why but I was.

This, to quote a very famous film, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We began it by shouting at one another. "WHO ARE YOU?" "WHAT DID I DO?"

Cosmic tumblers click click clicking ...

Jackie ended up going home - and I was left to fend for myself. But ... Phil was so nice, and so much fun to talk to ... that I felt okay letting her go. I didn't need my wing-girl, I was okay.

The next cosmic tumbler is coming up ... click clicking down ...

Phil started interrogating me. It was SO much fun, very flirty, lots of laughter - I was a young woman, but I felt like I hadn't flirted in eons, and I had forgotten the joy of it. "Where are you from? Are you from Chicago? Who are you? What's your deal? WHO ARE YOU?" Laughter. Phil's a beautiful person. He really put me at ease. So anyway, I started answering his questions - telling him I had just moved to Chicago from LA. We started bantering about LA. The freeways, the cars, etc. etc.

Onward with the journal:

At one point I sensed a presence behind me, turned, and M. had sat down next to me and was leering at me. At us. Phil gave M. an enormous grin. There was all kinds of significant telegraphing going on in their eyes.

Phil said, "M., this is Sheila. We are talking about LA."
M. said, "I hate California."
I said, "I hate it too."
Then M. said to me, "Hey, that was totally unplanned, what happened tonight."
"Yeah, right."
"No, really!"

Over the course of the evening it became the joke that to get rid of M., Phil and I would launch into a vigorous discussion of LA freeways. I think Phil really was trying to say to M., "Get lost." Finally, Phil looked straight at me, shutting M. out, and said, "And the 10 West goes straight into that Santa Monica sunset!" M. took the hint, and walked away, but he kept trying to join our conversation. Phil would, in the middle of us talking about something else, start bellowing about the Pacific Coast Highway and then M. would cringe and cower like the Wicked Witch of the West and wince away, laughing. Phil and I would sit in expectant silence as M. sauntered toward us yet again, and then simultaneously start babbling into each other's faces at point blank range. 'Well, when the 5 becomes the 101 ..." "Oh yeah, that 101, huh ..."

Oh man, I can so see that whole SCENE. And it just makes me laugh. I can so see now, in retrospect, what was going on there. Because here's the second cosmic tumbler: M. was obviously trying to butt in on Phil's pick-up moment, and thankfully the two guys were man enough to make a joke about it.

But had I known what the cosmic tumbler had in store for me ...

I speak of him now as "M", he comes up a lot here. And THAT is how we met. He had seen me from backstage - and decided to "meet" me, by making me part of the improv show ... but then Phil, a friend of his, "got to me first" (M.'s exact words).

If anyone able to see the future had whispered to me in that moment: "This man is going to end up being one of the most important men in your life ... EVER ... As a matter of fact, not too long from now, you will leave him 40 haikus in 40 days on his answer machine ... " I would have thought ... huh?? What????? How would THAT happen??

It began that night. Magnets. He and I were magnets. And it SHOWED that night ... even though Phil "got to me first".

Eventually, that summer - maybe June or July - my path crossed M.'s yet again. And this time there was no Phil around to block the way, and he got my phone number with extreme efficiency and finesse. Actually, that's not true. He bumbled, and mumbled, and ignored me, and finally asked JACKIE for my phone number, because he thought that he would scare me away. I busted him whispering to Jackie - and overheard him say, "I really like your friend ..." and I was like, "What are we, in 8th grade? I will give you my phone number RIGHT NOW." He called me the next day. Long before he would climb in my window "just to say hi", or stand in my alley to talk to me - looking up at me, leaning out over my window-sill, we went on a couple of dates - the third date I posted here, because it always struck me as just such a funny glimpse at the two of us in a specific moment in time - before we knew each other, before we trusted, before we knew that this thing was going to just keep going. The date was complete and utter anarchy - and would have driven a more conventional girl absolutely INSANE. Like: why aren't we progressing in a normal manner? What does it mean? What ARE we to each other? But when I met M., I didn't want conventional. I had had enough of conventional. And ... voila. There he was. Our third date, as insane as it was, set the tone for all other dates to follow. This went on for YEARS. In a funny way, I think M. knows me better than anyone. He knows everything.

But there he is - immortalized in that first diary entry of my first night out in Chicago ... trying to butt in while ANOTHER guy is hitting on me.

Truly amazing.

Back to the journal entry of my first night out in Chicago - which then moves on to the THIRD cosmic tumbler (again: I had no premonition that ANY of this would be part of a cosmic tumbler. I was just flirting with Phil. I thought M. was sexy - damn sexy, and I was flattered that he was trying to hit on me, to no avail - but it was Phil who had caught my fancy first. No foreshadowing here.)

Phil said to me, "Hey, you wanna come meet all my friends?" Well, of course I did. So with this huge sweeping "follow me" gesture, he paraded me about and took me over to the two girls who had come to see the show. They were so friendly. Phil screamed, "EVERYONE! THIS IS SHEILA!" And there was none of that female behavior of taking stock of me overtly. They both beamed at me and said, "Hi, Sheila!"

Within three minutes, the three of us were laughing about the condom dispensers in the women's bathroom, and the condoms bearing the name SAVAGE LOVE. We all watched the softball game on TV.

One of those girls would turn out to be Ann Marie - only we wouldn't REALLY meet until MONTHS later - when I went back to a Pat show, and we started conversing in line for the girls' bathroom. We did not put it together that we had actually met each other before until some time after that ... and of course, when we remembered it - all we could do was SCREAM in each other's faces: 'THAT WAS YOU??? I REMEMBER YOU!!" I so remembered her smiling face grinning up at me, when Phil introduced me. The woman has spectacular dimples, and I remembered them. I also remembered how open and welcoming she was to me - this random girl their friend was blatantly hitting on. She didn't give me hostile competitive vibes, she was so nice, so friendly, and a really cool woman - that was apparent immediately.

Phil did end up getting my phone number - he followed me outside to get it. He gave me a quick little kiss and brandished my phone number at me, "I WILL be using this!" Such a sweetheart.

Little did I know that he and Ann Marie had had a BET over who could get someone's phone number first that night. bwahahahahahahahahaha Of course, all of this only became clear months and months later as well. Phil had obviously liked the looks of me ... but he was DETERMINED to seal the deal with me (ie: get my digits) so that he could win the bet. Hence the single-mindedness. The guy could charm the bonnet off an Amish woman, I'll tell you that.

So so funny, though ... to remember that moment of introduction. Meanwhile, I was all just an unwitting part of a BET that Phil and Ann Marie had with each other ... but I had no idea that months later, I would meet Ann Marie and within moments it was as though we had known each other all our lives. It was truly as though we SHOULD have been friends in high school ... we clicked on THAT level.

But who could see the future that crazy snowy night at the Wrigleyside? Who could peek forward and see what would happen? That Phil and I would segue into friends. That Phil would introduce me to Pat McCurdy. That Pat McCurdy would end up writing a song for me and putting me on one of his CDs. That Pat would hire Phil, Ann Marie, our other friend Kenny and me to perform with him in front of THOUSANDS of beer-soaked music fans. That Ann Marie and I would end up becoming dear dear friends. Like lifelong friends. I mean ... how often does THAT happen once you become an adult? And that M. and I would have enough insane adventures to fill a small public library. That a couple of years later, I would literally be sobbing on the phone with M., because I was leaving Chicago to move to New York, and I had a fever of 103, and I was afraid I wouldn't get to see him before I left.

Who could predict our future intimacy from our first encounters?

M. says: "That wasn't planned tonight, by the way."
"Yeah, right."
"No, really!"

Flash-forward 4 years.

Me, sobbing, "I am going to be ROBBED of seeing you before I go!"
M., calm, manly, "You just get well. Don't worry. We'll see ea---"
Me, sobbing, insistent, "ROBBED. I am going to be ROBBED."
Long pause.
M. continued, calm, unruffled, "You focus on getting well, Sheila. I'll be here. Don't worry."

What?? From his goofball awkward flirting the first night to that?

Time-travel moments like that blow me away, and this first night out in Chicago provide a ton of them.

Phil shouting, "EVERYONE? THIS IS SHEILA!"
Ann Marie grinning up at me. "Hi!"

Flash-forward a year and a half to THIS magic Mary Mack moment.

Or flash-forward 8 years to our trip to Ireland.

Or flash-forward a couple of years to the time she showed up at my apartment in Chicago, with BARE FEET, so freaked out because a pigeon had flown through her window and basically attacked her like a rabid dog. Ann Marie had shrieked, fled the scene, and drove immediately to my house. The two of us then returned to her apartment, and snuck through her apartment wielding brooms and mops as weapons - as though we were Inspector Clouseau waiting for Cato to strike.

Or flash-forward 2 years to our unbeLIEVable experience in Milwaukee, when we performed on the big Miller Oasis stage at Milwaukee Summer Fest. I mean - WHAT? That literally had to be the funnest 4 days of my life.

The laughter that she and I have experienced ... has been almost dangerous to us, medically. There was one day in particular which we now refer to as our "Beowulf day" because it was so EPIC in scope ... when it literally felt like we had melded into one person. We could not stop laughing for, I am not lying, EIGHT HOURS. I felt my entire personality dissolve. I could not get it back together. We even had to go out that night - with 2 friends of hers who were in from out of town, I believe - and Ann and I were so ravaged by our day-long fit of laughter that we were barely fit to be in public. Ann informed the two guys bluntly, "We share one brain. Watch this." Then she turned to me, BORED her eyes into my head, and said, "What am I thinking about?" I am shaking with laughter now, remembering her face. Her eyes were absolutely insane. Like - YOU try laughing for eight hours straight and see how insane YOU feel!

Our experiences have been many. I have called her at two in the morning, because the heartache was so searingly awful. She has called me at two in the morning, with her own nightmares.

We have seen a man turn into a dinosaur. We have two-stepped with cowboys. We have danced jigs in small pubs in Dublin. We have co-hosted karaeoke parties in random Chicago suburbs. We have pretended we were other people. We have watched Lady Elaine do air guitar. We have propelled ourselves into the blazing star repeatedly.

Ann Marie used to shout at M.: "I AM IN YOUR LIFE!" He would shout back: "YOU ARE NOT IN MY LIFE." A small joke between the two of them. Funny to think about, in the context of that very first night.

I could go on.

She and I would get dressed up to go out, and she would glance at her own outfit, look at mine, and say, "Good. We've got that good girl/bad girl thing going on."

I could go on!

The conversations about Anne of Green Gables! She's read them all! Multiple times!!

I could go on!!

We ACTUALLY met, as in, the beginning of our friendship, standing in line for the girls bathroom at Lounge Ax. But it could not be more perfect that we met on that night at the Wrigleyside - before we actually met. There was always something a little bit cosmic about she and I together. We fit so well together as friends that it was always a little bit uncanny ... We just CLICKED. And perhaps we needed a bit of time to get used to the idea.

To get REALLY cosmic here, it's like the universe pushed Jackie and I to go to the Wrigleyside that night - even though we still kinda felt too sick to be out and about. And the universe then presented me with three people who were destined to be MAJOR players in the course of my life. But nothing came of it that night. Phil and I did not become friends that night. That happened much later. M. and I did not start going out that night. That happened much later. Ann Marie and I did not become friends that night. That would happen much later. But there they all were. There they all were. In one place, at one time. My very first night out in Chicago. My very first night out as a single person. I met them ALL that night. And then walked away ... having no idea what had just happened.

But the cosmic tumblers had gone to work. In their invisible silent way - setting into motion the events that would eventually bring us all - yes ALL - back together again.

Very rarely do cosmic tumblers reveal themselves, very rarely do you hear them click ... click ... clicking down ...

It was only much later that I would look back on that first night at the Wrigleyside, and think: "Hmmm. Now that is biZARRE."

M., by the way, was mainly undaunted by the fact that Phil had obviously set his sights on me. The cocky bastard didn't give up - for that entire first night. He never made a nuisance of himself - (I thought he was damn sexy, anyway ... so having him vy for my attention was so flattering I thought I would have cardiac arrest every time I noticed it going on.) As long as Phil and I weren't boyfriend/girlfriend, as long as I was still up for grabs, M. would let me know he was interested.

In his own ... really retarded way.

We all watched the softball game on TV. At one point, I felt this tapping on my back, incessant, not hard or poking - just touch, touch, touch - like a pulsing neon light. For some reason, I totally assimilated it without turning around to see who was doing the tapping. My attitude was more along the lines of: "Hm. Someone's poking my back. Hm." Finally, I turned around and it was M., who, when I didn't turn around right away to see who the fuck was TOUCHING ME, decided to see how long I would just stand there allowing him to poke me, as though there were nothing out of the ordinary about it. I came to my senses immediately, and then we both started LAUGHING about how I just stood there, nonchalantly drinking my beer, watching TV, letting him poke me in the back.

I am laughing out loud.

To me, he was just a random hot guy who was messing around with me, making me laugh, and being as GOOFY as possible ... which was his way of sending me a pheromonal smoke-signal: "Pick me over Phil!"

I chose Phil. At least to go out on a date with him. But ... who did I end up with? For years? M.

Gotta love the boy's persistence. He couldn't see the future either. I was just a "new girl" on the scene, and he wanted me, so he hit on me. But I guess on some level, on the level where things make sense, on the level of cosmic tumblers ... I believe that he and I were flirting with the larger pattern, the cosmic one, in our brief encounters that night. We just weren't ready to really go there. It wasn't time yet.

Ann Marie smiled up at me, with her beautiful face, her shining eyes, her gorgeous hair - the girl is a knockout - and I felt her warmth, I felt her openness to me, her non-competitive thing - I felt her friendliness, and I was very much drawn to her. She and I were flirting with the larger pattern, the cosmic one, in our brief encounters that night. But it wasn't time for us to become friends yet.

And so I thank God for Phil. The man who took me out on a date to see Pat McCurdy play. And from there ... all things followed.

Without Phil, I would never have met Ann, and I just can't picture that. I can't picture never having have met her. The thought is truly baffling ... and I am telling you: I SHIVER when I think how close the call was. Jackie and I were both still sick. We could easily have stayed in that night. Now perhaps a person who TRULY believes in cosmic-patterns, and "meant to be" would say, immediately, "If it was meant to be that you and she would be friends ... you would have met ANYWAY. Somehow!"

I don't know if I believe that.

Is ANYTHING inevitable, all on its own? Besides death, I mean? Death is coming, whether we want it to or not.

I do believe that I was destined to meet Ann Marie - it's just that it took a couple of different meetings to seal the deal. My life is unimaginable without her in it. Truly ... difficult to even picture it. She was so much a part of my experience in Chicago that I can't separate her from ANY of it. (uhm ... she and I parked in a car outside M.'s house, analyzing the quality of the light we saw in the window to discern whether or not he was there ... "That looks to me like a light left on accidentally when someone leaves the house ... Like, I don't think he's home." Uhm - girls. Does the LIGHT actually LOOK different in different circumstances? No matter. That was the kind of friend she was.)

Her angry face berating the loser post-frat guys who refused to move out of the apartment Mitchell and I were moving into. We showed up on the morning of the move-in, a pouring rainy morning, with a Uhaul truck full of stuff ... to find three stumbling hungover guys who HADN'T EVEN PACKED YET. Mitchell and I were stunned, silent ... The hungover guys tried to bond with us, drunkenly, like: "hahahaha, you know how it is .." Ann Marie peeked around a corner (she had been stalking through the apartment, staring around her in outrage) - and said, "No, you know what? We're really pissed right now." Wipe that smirk off your face!

She was that kind of friend. She would enter into your experience so willingly, if she was your friend. She would live it with you. If you felt the need to propel yourself into a blazing star, she would leap in there with you.

Friends like that are priceless.

Happy birthday, Ann Marie. My life would not be the same without you in it. And I'm so glad those cosmic tumblers were so busy at work that first night out ... making sure our paths crossed ... and then ... (with a little help from Phil) making sure our paths crossed AGAIN. Like the universe was repeating itself, saying to us: "Look, girls, you are going to LOVE each other. We tried to set it up back in March at the Wrigleyside ... but you didn't really run with it ... So ... here you are again, 'randomly' next to one another in line for the bathroom at Lounge Ax. You don't remember it yet - but you have met before ... and TRUST ME. You are going to LOVE each other. You are gonna have to TRUST US on this one. We don't do this often, but we're giving you a second chance right now. So GO. RUN WITH IT."

And we did.

The universe breathed a sigh of relief. "FINALLY. They got the hint. Okay ... we can check that one off the list. Take 'Get Ann Marie and Sheila to become friends' off the list, mkay? NEXT!"

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March 21, 2006

Domestic bliss and neurosis

On Saturday, I had my friend Jen over. This next weekend I'm having my friend Allison over. The following week, Mitchell arrives and he will be staying with me for a bit. And at the end of April, I'm having a dinner party for all O'Malley cousins and aunts and uncles and siblings in the area. Well, and some are driving in from OTHER areas. Should be interesting, considering the SIZE of my apartment. And the fact that I only have 4 chairs. Oh well. And I want to have another girlfriend-sleepover party with my friends from Rhode Island. When Mere's foot heals!!!

Anyway. Simone (the cross-dressing red-glittery-lipsticked palm-reader who accosted all of us last Monday after my show) kept saying to me, "Home ... you need to make your house a home ... have people over ..." etc.

This was already the way the wind was blowing - but it's really happening now. Every time I have had my friends down from Rhode Island - it is always SUCH a joy to ... have people over, man. I just love it. New York is much more of a "Let's meet out at a restaurant" type of culture. It's just easier - since everyone is usually sprawled all over the city - and it's easier to pick some central location, where everyone can catch their trains home, etc. And fuggedaboutit if you live in Joisey. Even if my house is closer to the city than most spots in Brooklyn. It's still just easier, in general, to meet in the city. But the joy of having people come over ... let them into my world ... return the favor (because all of them have hosted me on numerous occasions) is SUCH an intense joy for me that I get all excited about it.

If you're not like me then you will have NO idea what I'm talking about - but if you ARE like me, then maybe you'll get it. I'm a hermit. And I'm a loner. I get into habits. Habits of hibernation. Like - I disappear off the face of the earth. My apartment is a private little castle, dedicated to my obsessions. I get shy about letting people in there. My books. My movies. My writing. It's MY place. And ... I've been shy about having people over. It's a very VERY big deal for me to have company. It doesn't have to do with the STATE of my house or anything like that. It's an adorable and cozy apartment. It's very ME. It expresses who I am. It's not like I have old food smeared on the floor, and empty gin bottles piled up in the sink. hahahaha It's just I'm in a habit of ... NEVER having people "drop by".

But over the last couple months, I've sensed that a lot of this needs to change. I need to open my house to my friends, my family - more. It gives me so much joy when Beth, Betsy, Mere (and once: Ceileidh!) come over, and stay. And use my kitchen, and give me compliments on the coziness of it ... and make themselves comfortable. I love it and I need to do it more. I need to get some air in there. It will do me good, and ... somehow I sense it will change me. In a way that I need to change. My social self has pretty much receded in recent years. For various reasons. I've had some disappointments in life that I have taken too much to heart. I have retreated.

And I've realized that my apartment - the space where I live - is a metaphor for larger things. My whole life. WHO. I. AM. What breakthroughs would be possible for me if I just throw open those doors?

So I've done that.

I'm neurotic about my apartment - but that's only because I'm usually the only one who sees it ... so I get self-conscious about it. Basically what it comes down to is ... I'm self-conscious about who I am. That's all. And I'm determined to work on that. So what that every inch of wall space is taken up by books? So what?? I can work on this self-consciousness on my own, intellectually, and I have - but I've also found that just having people over, and opening up my life to them (my dear friends) ... is highly relaxing and gratifying. I start to look around and see things in a different way. I lose the self-consciousness. I look at my curtains and realize, yet again, how beautiful they are. I look at how the lamplight falls on my pale yellow walls and get a deeper appreciation of how pretty it is. I look at my hard wood floors and go: "Damn. That's so nice looking!" My reticence dissolves. It becomes a place where I can actually CELEBRATE who I am. Because the place so expresses me perfectly.

Letting people in to my space - and being the hostess - and having food for my guests - and all that stuff - is, for me, like giving gifts on Christmas. This is my space. This is who I am. It's a nice place. It's very me. It's a gift I can give to others. There are some people who are like that with their homes. Their doors are always open. You will always find a space at their dinner table. They LOVE to be the hosts. It gives them great great joy - those are always the funnest houses to visit. I'm learning. That's the kind of relationship I want to have with my space. And it's hard for me. I am sooooooo private. And did I mention neurotic? But by holding back, by WITHholding my living space ... I'm withholding who I am. It's been so much fun to just ... throw that mindset away!!

Jen - who helped me feng shui the joint up - hasn't been to my apartment since then, even though we live 5 minutes away from each other. I mean, granted, we're both busy, our lives are nuts, yadda yadda ... but God, it was so NICE to have her over. She walked in this past weekend - and just wandered around for a while - taking it all in. She's a dear dear friend - she gets how my whole apartment-thing is a pretty big deal to me. She gets it. She had a comment for EVERYTHING. "Oh! That bookcase looks great there!" Etc. We were roommates for 9 years ... so she was exclaiming over certain objects. "Oh! I remember that knick-knack!! Oh man ... I miss having all your BOOKS around!" It took her half an hour to take everything in. This is why I love this girl. I've got tears in my eyes right now. She looked at everything. She complimented me on all my plants. One of the plants she gave me - 9 years ago - it was a teeny fragile stalk - and it is now a huge tree. Well - huge? It's almost as tall as I am. But it was literally 3 inches long when she gave it to me. I sat back, and watched her walk around, looking at stuff - and I started to see the place through her eyes. She's very sensitive to space, to how things are set up ... when I needed to rearrange everything, she's the one I called. She's just got a great eye for it. I do not. So to watch her walk around, nodding happily, saying, "I love it here ... it has a really good energy, Sheila ... I love it ..." meant so much to me.

It's funny. I'm a grown woman. But having guests is still a novelty to me ... and I still find it thrilling.

Coming out of my shell. That's what's happening, in more ways than one. Coming out of my shell.

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March 18, 2006

Bacchanal

MAJOR bacchanal last night. I don't really DO bacchanals any more. But last night was a lunatic bacchanal. SO. MUCH. FUN. We hooked up with an entire rowdy group from West Virginia, all wearing green hats, and green shirts - and we had to sign their shirts - and there were beers drank - and beers spilled - and then one random girl showed up with two huge pizzas - for the entire crowd (no food at the bar ... so this needed to be rectified). I love that girl. She didn't know any of us ... but she knew the entire bar needed food.

There was this one poor guy Morgan who - I have no idea why - but the entire bar, randomly, would start to chant his name ... calling upon him to chug the rest of his beer. "MorGAN MorGAN MorGAN MorGAN ..." And Morgan - who was hilarious - would down beer after beer in one gulp. The man truly was amazing. I didn't know Morgan before last night - and he now is a legend in my own mind. We acted like we all were lifelong friends. Did you know that most architects are colorblind and gay? We befriended an entire crowd of architects and one of them told us this little-known fact. None of the guys we met last night were gay, but two of them were colorblind. hahahaha Morgan sat down at our table. He was introduced to all of us. "And what do you do, Morgan?" someone asked. He said, "I'm an architect." I shot at him flatly, "Are you colorblind or gay?" Morgan had not been there for the colorblind/gay conversation - so it was as though he had sat down with a table of lunatics. Why is this strange girl shooting these questions at me?? But he took it in stride, (and I'm telling you, the guy is a legend - nothing ruffled him) and said, "Neither!" One of the other architects said to me, "Damn, you just became a sniper for a minute."

There was a moment where one of the architects shoved his friend angrily and said, confrontationally, "You're NOT fighting China?" I cannot explain the history of that moment ... or why it was so damn funny ... so much would be lost in translation ... Suffice it to say, that was the first thing I thought when I woke up this morning, and I burst out laughing. Like: this guy was PISSED that his friend was NOT fighing China in some future war. Even just writing this much is lessening the funny - we all were literally crying with laughter.

Beers. More beers.

All of us standing and shouting: "MOR-GAN MOR-GAN MOR-GAN ..."

At one point, this really drunk dude with long curly blonde hair and a peaceful beautiful face stood up on his chair - and started to try to make an announcement to the entire bar. It was URGENT to him that he somehow communicate with all of us. But it was way too loud in the bar - no one paid any attention - and he stood up there, alone, waving his arms, and shouting to no avail. Johnny and I were like, "Holy shit ... Jesus is here ... he's trying to speak to us ..." It looked like Jesus. But a WASTED Jesus. Johnny and I tried to tune in to what he was saying and all we heard was something like: "Germany will rise again ..." We were like ohhhhh shit! We could not stop laughing after that. He looked so peaceful - this beautiful face, and long hippie hair ... and he was shouting German nationalistic statements. Dude, please don't start screaming about Germany rising again. He almost got thrown out of the bar. The enormous bouncer came over and tried to calm Jesus down - giving him a warning. Half an hour later, Jen and I were up at the bar, waiting for the bartender to notice us, and we turned around, and we saw Jesus, even MORE drunk, being held up by his two friends, and he was STILL trying to make his announcement. They kept trying to suppress him, and ... dammit ... he just SO NEEDED to communicate with a large group of people. He could not be stopped. Jen and I were like, "He's still goin'! Still tryin'!"

We had an enormous group discussion about rectal exams. It was AWESOME. There was a doctor in our group, and he told us about the first rectal exam he had to do. AWESOME. More beers!

The noise was so out of control that when I had to make a phone call I had to go outside. The streets were absolute PANDEMONIUM. Now I'm actually not a big St. Patty's Day fan. Why not? Same reason I'm not a New Year's Eve fan. Not too wacky about amateur drunks. I enjoy people who can hold their liquor. But the parade of drunken people on the street was, indeed, very entertaining. Especially the big meaty macho guys - strolling by wearing green velvet top hats with Amish beards attached on a string. Smoking, walking, talking ... as though they weren't wearing anything weird at all. So funny.

But while I was out there I saw something pretty cool. There were two Irish girls and an Irish guy - real Irish - I heard their accents, and their faces were obviously Irish. Anyway, they were smoking, hanging out, and I heard the two girls start singing - they were adorable, by the way. Little short spiky haircuts, with plastic barettes, wearing jeans, big boots - They were not drunk. They seemed sane. The two girls were laughing, and singing a song together - the song had many many verses - and I heard "Finnegans Wake" over and over and over ... some long-versed Irish folk song - they kept trying to remember lyrics, one would take over, the other would flounder, then catch up - It was obviously a song from childhood, one they were pulling up out of the memory banks. Much laughter between the two of them - and then one of them, I kid you not, started river dancing on the sidewalk. The guy who was with them started guffawing with laughter, saying, "Oh shit ..." lighting another cigarette - The other girl stood up and they started step-dancing around each other, singing "Finnegans Wake". They were goofy, sweet, lively, and I felt really happy that I had witnessed it. On an insane street, packed with drunken Americans, dressed up in green and gold with flashing green necklaces and shamrock hats, etc. - two Irish girls started riverdancing, unselfconsciously, just enjoying each other, and enjoying the memory of that song. Beautiful!

Back inside.

The bartender looked so much like Philip Seymour Hoffman that I honestly wondered if it WAS Hoffman, and he was there researching his next role, as a harassed bartender on St. Patrick's Day.

The bar became ONE. That almost NEVER happens here. Not like it did in Dublin that one night.

But last night - 85 people BONDED. We became ONE. We were all in this thing together, this St. Patty's Day Bacchanal together.


Mor-GAN Mor-GAN Mor-GAN Mor-GAN!!!

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January 3, 2006

The call of the fleece

Yesterday was bitter cold, with freezing driving rain towards the end of the day. The sky before the rain came was low, and heavy-looking. I did a ton of laundry, wheeling my cart through the freezing streets, and everything suddenly seemed quite wintry and still. It was January 2. Nobody seemed to be at work (they all were doing laundry). The dry cleaners was closed. BUMMER. I finished doing all my laundry, came back to my apartment - the drapes were semi-closed (my gorgeous drapes which continue to make me happy!! Thanks, Mum!) - and it looked like it was 10 o'clock at night outside. A strange and quiet dark dark day. Manhattan looked gloomy and soot-ridden across the Hudson - but the Hudson itself gleamed iridescent silver. The whole day was like that - strange dramatic images, startling, contrasts.

The PMS, she has me in her grip - it'll all be over by tomorrow - but the first two days are always horrific no matter how many Motrins I pop. All I felt like doing was lying in bed, wrapped up in fleece, reading Now I can Die in Peace, and occasionally moaning, and stretching like a cat - which I feel helps get rid of the cramps.

But I hauled ass out into the cold, did the laundry, and as a result felt holy and pure.

I still struggled with the desire to dress head to toe in fleece and crawl into bed, moaning, but no. I proceeded to put away all the clean laundry. Amazing!

Then my phone rang. It was Jen. She said "Wanna come over and watch a movie?"

Unbelievably, I said, "Sure! I'll just take a shower and come right over."

Jen is in Manhattan. It's hard to describe how - even though NYC is right across the river - it does take some effort to get your ass into town. At least it does for me, in my old age. If you call me at a 7:30 on a Saturday night, and say, "Hey, we're meeting up at such-and-such in an hour or so - wanna come?" - I will probably say no. Once I'm home, I'm home. Hard to explain. Once I cross the river home, it would take something like a Russell Crowe sighting to get me back into Manhattan at short notice. As in: "Omygod, Russell Crowe has just joined our table - he's buying drinks for everyone - GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE!"

So strangely enough - I said yes to Jen's invite. Despite the overwhelming desire to be encased in fleece and to lie moaning under my covers, popping Motrins into my mouth like candy.

An hour later, I was at her door. I can't describe how much this kind of behavior is not in my personality. Yes. I am rigid in my ways. I am a homebody. And I'm not all that spontaneous. But for whatever reason - yesterday - I broke the pattern. Despite the fact that I YEARNED for fleece-age. We went right back out again, into the freezing driving rain, to buy some wine. I had brought my complete Office series - thank you, Lisa - Jen had never seen it - and I was so excited to show some of it to her. I just knew she'd love it.

So we sat on the couch - actually I lay on the couch - so that I was still able to moan, if I felt like I needed it, and stretch like a cat - (Jen's a good friend - we don't stand on ceremony with each other) - and we drank wine, and we talked, and laughed, and caught up - and then had a GLORIOUS time watching a couple of episodes of The Office - which I just KNEW she would "get". On a deep deep level. She GETS stuff like Spinal Tap - not just that it's funny - but that it is feckin' GENIUS. It's almost too perceptive to even laugh at - even though so much of it is just howlingly funny. So that was fun. Within 2 seconds of David Brent talking, she just gasped. "Oh my God." Halfway through the first episode she said, "Does it ever get less embarrassing?" "Uhm ... no. It actually gets more embarrassing." (I was thinking of this episode.)

Jen also just couldn't believe how funny Gareth was. His babbling about the territorial army and how he could make poison darts out of frogs or whatever - Jen was just shaking with laughter beside me.

It's so fun to SHOW stuff you love to other people, isn't it? I had to force myself to just sit back (or in my case: lie back - like a damn beached whale) - and let her experience it on her own - without getting all in her face, "ISN'T THIS HYSTERICAL??"

Then we watched a film that hasn't even been released yet - but Jen's stepfather is in SAG so he gets advance copies of tons of films - but anyway - it's a movie starring Anthony Hopkins called The World's Fastest Indian - and I have to admit, it didn't really sound like my thing, although I love Anthony Hopkins. Turns out - it has the same ol' sports movie formula that I find so compelling, and so potentially wonderful. It's just that the story here is this guy whose one dream in life is to break the land-speed record with his 1920s era Indian motorcycle.

It's a movie based on Burt Munro - a legend in New Zealand - and, I'm sure, a legend to motorcycle-lovers everywhere. Or bigger than that: speed demons everywhere.

All I can say is: when it comes out, SEE IT!!

It's not perfect - there are some cheesy elements - and I could have done without the soundtrack altogether - there was music below almost every scene - which made me feel like those in charge thought that we wouldn't "get it" otherwise - very irritating - but the STORY!! Of this GUY! Burt Munro (at least as he is portrayed in the film) was the type of guy who could get other people enthusiastic about his pet projects. That was one of the most moving things in the film. I can't really describe it - but Jen and I were just so moved by it. He was a mad mechanical genius, tinkering away in his garage, alone - but when it came time to actually get to America, and get to Utah, etc. etc. - he needed to be resourceful, creative, improvisational - and along the way, his journey to get to the speed races - he meets all these people - who help him, or get excited about what he's trying to do. You start to get the sense that this guy is an amazing man.

Diane Ladd has a great cameo of a woman he meets along the way - a straight-talking woman who lives out in the middle of nowhere - He needs a part for his motorcycle - it busted along the way - so he approaches her, with that same openness he approaches everyone else - and she happens to have this whole welding apparatus in her garage, and she lets him use it .... Lovely connection made - lovely little scene.

There's the hitchhiker he picks up - a young kid in uniform about to go off to Vietnam - a kid who gets completely caught up in Burt's excitement.

There's the serious-eyed little kid at one of the gas stations - who stares at the Indian - which is tied to the back of Bert's truck - the kid is just mesmerized. He says up to Bert, bluntly, "Is this a rocket?" Something about his face - you just love him.

There's the Native American man - complete with long braids - who picks Bert up off the side of the road, after an accident involving a wheel falling off the motorcycle. This guy - this random character - who is only in one scene - You just love the guy. He doesn't seem to be an actor. He really seems to be just a real-life person, strolling through the action of the film. That's one of the strengths of the films - the people you meet along the way.

I love the big loud Texan guy, chomping on a cigar, who TOTALLY gets psyched about Burt and his crazy motorcycle, and he just wants to BE there when Burt sets the record. He stands in the background, wearing a cowboy hat, a loud Hawaiian shirt, chomping like a lunatic on his cigar - and you just want to hug him. For just being so cool.

I particularly LOVED the transvestite receptionist at this cheesy motel Munro stays in. God. Who IS that actor? Just the warmth, the ... sweetness ... She is a receptionist at a fleabag hotel - and she dresses like Jackie Kennedy. She sees that Burt is a fish out of water in Los Angeles - he has never been to America before - and instead of throwing him attitude, or being impatient with him - she takes him out to breakfast. It's unexpected sweetness, because Munro also encounters a lot of obstacles along the way, a lot of people who think he's nuts, who think he's a moron ... But she believes in him. She helps him out.

I highly recommend you see this movie when it comes out. Yes. There is some cheese. But a little cheese never hurt no one.

And Jen and I ended up cheering at the end of the film - in the climactic moment. Cheering and clapping.

A wonderful movie. But really what it is is it's a great STORY. That's why one can overlook the cheese. And the goofy soundtrack. Because they've got a great STORY here.

I even forgot the PMS.

I lay on my back on the couch, and yes - I still did moan, on occasion, because I just had to - but the rain battered against the windows, the living room was warm and dry - and I was so so glad that I wasn't home. Glad I just said "Yes" to her spontaneous invite.

Glad I ignored the call of the fleece.

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December 16, 2005

Metallica on the 29th floor

On the 29th floor. Big apartment building in the West 50s with a spectacular view. The room actually is on a corner - so you get two walls of windows converging.

Lights turned down dim. Teeny Christmas tree, with white lights on it, and sparkley red decorations.

The sparkling skyline of the city unfurling in the canyons outside the window.

Glasses of wine. Soft conversation.

And then:

Out of nowhere:

BLARING Metallica's St. Anger and dancing like absolute MANIACS in front of the glass windows.

hahahaha

It was like a FEVER came over both of us and we just had to GET. IT. OUT.

We didn't discuss it, or say, "Let's play Metallica" - it didn't go along with the mood of our night at all - which was quiet, contemplative. But then the CD popped on in the rotation - and that was IT.

We were thrashing lunatics in front of the plate glass, 29 floors up, for ... oh ... 20 minutes? We had no idea how long we were in that state - taken over by the music. Literally thrashing as though we were at a Metallica concert. We almost missed our movie because of it. We were like, in the middle of the thrashing: "What time is it?" "9:10." "Oops. Let's go." We dropped the thrashing, instantly, put on our coats and left for the movie.

hahahaha Why does this crack me up?

Oh yeah - and snow slanted through the sky, too. Cutting down through the darkness, billowing by the windows 29 floors up.

Awesome.


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November 10, 2005

The coma contingency

Yes. The title of this post sounds like a Robert Ludlum novel.

I have been spurred on to reveal this semi-embarrassing thing about myself because DeAnna was brave enough to write a post like this. I recognize myself in a post like that. It's been a while since I've gone a little bit crazy, but when I do go crazy? I break all the records. You never SEEN crazy like Sheila crazy!!

So her post describing her increasing hysteria (based only upon her own morbid imagination) reminds me of The Coma Contingency.

The Coma Contingency dates from ... the mid-1990s. I was in love with someone. It didn't work out causing me to go pretty much insane for ... well, far too long. One of my dear friends at the time (I will not reveal her name ... unless she steps forward and says: "I AM SHEILA'S PARTNER IN CRIME!" Because this story involves the two of us. But this is my blog, and I am only going to reveal MY secrets. It's not up to me to reveal stuff about other people.) So anyway - one of my dear friends was also madly in love with someone. It didn't work out. She and I were always scarily in sync. Romances for both of us would sometimes go in identical cycles. We would both be flying high, full of happiness, excitement, over our new relationships, and then - over the course of the SAME weekend - be full of tears and tragedy.

So this was one of those times.

We were both really really sad. We would sit around and talk about our lost loves. We would analyze. We basically just supported each other, and tried to move on.

And one of the ways we did that was to put in place a plan that we called The Coma Contingency.

The Coma Contingency existed for YEARS ... and ... er ... man, it still may BE in place for all I know. We would reference it on occasion. 6 years later ... "So ... you still there for me with the Coma Contingency?" "Yup. No problem."

So. Let's create a hypothetical so that you can see how the Coma Contingency should work.

I was madly in love with this guy. But he hadn't even been my boyfriend. Not really. This put me in a VERY precarious position - (try to imagine being crazy, and then this will all make sense.) Let's say I had a horrible accident and went into a coma. People would have to be notified, right? Parents called ... friends ... but ... who would know to notify the guy I loved? He wasn't in my address book. He didn't exist - as far as my documentation was concerned. He wasn't "in there". This was VERY precarious - because if I were in a coma, I would DAMN well want him to know!! (Why? Oh, you know, because then he could rush to my side and be with me ... or then -- even though I would be in a coma and lost to the world, I believed that it was important for him to KNOW that I was in a coma - that somehow his KNOWING would change what it was like for me, in my coma-ness ... I could go on, but I think it's better if I stop talking right now) ... The thought of me being in a coma and him going blithely about his business, unaware of my situation, was UNBEARABLE.

The same was true for my friend. We concocted this whole thing together, by the way. We were, of course, scarily in sync, in terms of our fears about being in a coma and having our ex-loves NOT know.

So. We came up with what we called The Coma Contingency. If I were in a coma, then she would know what to do. She would, no matter where she was, contact the guy I loved, and let him know. And if she were in a coma, then I would know what to do. Even if the coma happened 5 years hence. Come hell or high water, I would track down the guy she once loved, and let him know.

You see, too, how we assumed we would still NEED the Coma Contingency 5 years later. We created the Contingency in the freshness of our grief and loss, when we thought we would feel that way FOREVER.

But we promised: IF there were to be ANY comas ... involving either of us ... then the one left conscious had to PROMISE to track down the old flame ... and let him know.

Trying to imagine that conversation.

Ring, ring ...

"Hello?"

"Hi ... I realize you're married and have 3 kids now ... and it's been 15 years since you knew her ... but just wanted to let you know that Sheila's in a coma. Have a good day. Bye."

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September 21, 2005

The last time I did a shot of tequila


The last time I did a shot of tequila was in 1992, April or May, a rainy night, at a once-upon-a-time strip club called Estelle's in Chicago. Apparently it is now renovated into a total yuppie hangout. But in 1992, it was a grungy dirty dive, located beneath the L tracks. A hang-out for off-duty firemen, raging alcoholics and improv comedians . The bartender there was a fabulous woman named Carla, a woman whom I ended up being in a band with ... briefly, thank Christ. (I'm even on their album which ... I have no idea where it is, I used to have a copy of it, but it has since sunk into the depths of history. Again, thank Christ.) My friend Jackie and I had a regular gig singing at Estelle's. Because it was once a strip-club, in long-ago days, there is a stage behind the bar. Which is where we stood to sing.

People loved us. People came to see us, specifically. We had a small following.

One night I did some tequila shots. And later that night, I was involved in my one and only "bar fight. Coincidence? I think not.

The fight was with a crazy woman named Caroline, who wore a bandana as a headband (a la Jon Bon Jovi circa 1986), tall white boots, and who appeared to be incredibly disturbed and angered by our presence. She began to heckle us. Loudly. At one point, she began to weep. Uncontrollably. She sat at the end of the bar, sobbing like a banshee. Jackie and I kept trying to make our way through our set, ignoring the random shrieked interjections from the miserable Caroline. A couple examples of what we had to deal with:

"Take your pants off, bitches!" hollered Caroline at one point.

"Ahhhh, this is BULL shit!!" moaned Caroline. That was a refrain. We, and our singing, were BULL shit!!! We were put on this earth just to cause her pain!!

Later, Jackie and I came up with the theory that Caroline was an in-the-closet lesbian and somehow took out all of her latent aggressions on the two singing straight girls wearing lipstick and getting male attention up on the stage. Who knows what was actually going on. Kindly firemen tried to shut Caroline up, which pushed her over the edge even more.

To make a long story ... well, longer ... Caroline ended up locking herself in the bathroom and smashing all the mirrors, during our set. Jackie and I were perched up on the stripper's stage, singing along, hearing these wild CRASHES coming from behind the locked door. Occasionally, a howl of agony from the distraught Caroline would make it to our ears. I cannot describe how challenging it was to keep singing, when all we wanted to do was break down and LAUGH.

At one point (and this was the major error of the evening), Jackie, a gorgeous blonde, one of my dearest friends in the world, leaned into the microphone, while Caroline was mirror-smashing her way into infamy, and said in a sweet sugary voice, "Come on out of the bathroom, Caroline ... Everybody loves you ... Come on out ... "

Caroline, in the middle of her nervous breakdown, obviously heard this and thought (rightly) that everyone out in the bar was making fun of her. Rage began to smoulder beneath her headband. Grief and loss bubbled up in her heart. Jackie and I suddenly became symbolic of her struggles in life, all of the people who had ever rejected her. We were her problem.

Our set ended ... finally, management got Caroline out of the bathroom ... but they did not throw her out, for some inconceivable reason. She was still sizzling with rage, waiting for her moment.

I had just gotten new headshots done, so Jackie and I went into the now-cleaned-up and mirror-less bathroom to look them over. We huddled over the contact sheet, talking. Then - suddenly - BOOM. The door to the bathroom slammed open and there stood Caroline., holding a pool cue like some medieval crossbow. She was blocking our exit. Jackie and I stood frozen, petrified, trapped. We felt guilty. She glared at us. We were her nemesei.

I decided to make a break for it. I grabbed Jackie's hand and shoved my way past Caroline. We literally had to push her out of the way to escape the dreaded bathroom because Caroline was about to kick our asses.

Our autonomy, our independence, our unconcern for her rage (we could not take her pain away) caused a crack to open up in Caroline's psyche.

And so she then smashed her pool cue against my back, cracking it in two.

I have never been attacked in my life. I felt no pain. Adrenaline surged up. Fierce jagged adrenaline.

I turned on Caroline and pushed her up against the wall, screaming in her face, "Don't you EVER friggin' touch me again, bitch -- you hear me? Don't you EVER lay a hand on me again! You freakin' crazy BITCH!" (You get the idea. It was variations along that general theme.)

The firemen playing pool raced over and pulled me off of her, and at that moment Caroline started freaking out, as though she were being carted off to Bellevue: she was trying to punch me, reaching out to pull my hair ... The firemen had to restrain her. I continued to scream throughout all of this. "You're CRAZY. You're CRAZY! You don't TOUCH ME. You got that? YOU. DON'T. TOUCH. ME."

Caroline, being held back by the firemen, did a karate kick at me, with her big white 1986 boots.

And it was then, finally, that Caroline was kicked out of Estelle's. After she had relentlessly heckled the entertainment, destroyed their bathroom, attacked an entertainer, broke a pool cue ... Hmmm. What's your clue that this woman needs to be shown the door?

I stood, surrounded by concerned firemen, my heart pounding through my body, my hands trembling. The firemen took care of me. They made me sit down. They sat with me until I calmed down. Firemen. Salt of the earth, I tell ya.

The last I ever saw of Caroline was 20 minutes later. She stood in the middle of North Ave, in the pouring rain, trying to call a cab, in a state of frenzied rage and grief. Occasionally she would turn and scream at the top of her lungs in the general direction of Estelle's.

What the hell was going on with that woman?

It's quite frightening when you realize that you have unwittingly become a symbol to someone else. There's very little you can do at that point.

The next day my friend Jackie, quite a funny cartoonist, drew a caricature of Caroline, with the headband, the boots, a cigarette in one hand, a beer in the other, with glowering furious eyes, and FAXED it to me at my temp job. Unfortunately, the boss got to the Fax before I did, and watched the drawing emerge from the Fax machine. He placed it on my desk with a note which was the epitome of understatement: "I think this is yours."

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July 22, 2005

Queens with crossbows

Okay, so it was only last night, but I had already forgotten all about this and was just reminded. Not sure if I can get across the humor of what happened, but I will give it a shot. I am crying with laughter right now.

After some rumspringa, David drove me home. We had had a great time. As always. MAJOR conversation. Covering the highs, the lows, the literary conceits, the patterns, the frustrations, the nostalgia, the disappointments, the humor ... of this thing we call life. My life is a literary conceit. It really is.

Anyway, David pulled onto my street, and we pulled up in front of my apartment building. We sat there talking for a second.

At the end of my street, which is a dead-end - I caught a glimpse of two figures. They were moving about ... but in what seemed to me a rather aimless way. It was dark - so I couldn't tell WHAT they were doing ... but something about it seemed "off" to me.

And somehow - the way one of them was holding his arm - or maybe it was just a shadow - I don't know - but I said to David ... "Uhm ... I'm not gonna get out of the car just yet to go in. I think that guy down there has a crossbow."

I swear to God. I saw a crossbow. I saw two aimless shadows ... one of whom was holding a crossbow. Which - I am sure you will agree - is a rather alarming image. You just don't want to be wandering around your nice little neighborhood and run into some person wielding a crossbow. So ... uhm ... yeah. Let me stay in the car safe with David until they pass by.

David didn't laugh - but he did squint down at the end of my street - saying ... "Uh ... crossbow?"

The crossbow men were obviously approaching. They were walking up the sidewalk. They were blocked from our view by the parked cars ... but we could see their heads moving through the car windows ... Here they come ... Here they come ...

And then ... as they walked by ...

We saw that they were two elderly gentlemen, obviously gay, and they had a dainty wee little poodle on a leash, going out for a late-night walk. Not only did they not have crossbows ... but they looked like literally the most harmless people (and animal) on the face of the planet.

David and I just BURST into laughter ... because we had been expecting to see ... I don't know what ... but the expectation had been set up by my saying the word "crossbow" ... And then who goes by? Two old queens with their fluffy little dog. We just were HOWLING.

David emails me today: "I feel pretty grateful for your friendship but even more grateful that I didn't end up with an arrow shot through my sternum last night by that vicious gang of queens and their poodle! I don't know where these people get their crossbows!"

Laughing out loud over here ...

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July 20, 2005

Introducing: The Phys. Wrecks

Judge Roberts? Of course. I am aware of the situation, and I am interested in the situation, but I'll leave it to other bloggers to discuss it ad nauseum. Because, frankly, I'm not done talking about high school yet. Not by a long shot. I have a feeling I'm boring the hell out of everyone. hahahaha But not my high school buddies. And for me? I'M ALL ABOUT HIGH SCHOOL RIGHT NOW.

So. Here's the deal with the following story.

I will be posting a kind of photo essay ... and it is meant to be read from top to bottom. Not from bottom to top.

The story behind the photos:

When I was a senior in high school, the girls basketball team (many of the players were good friends of mine) started kicking some SERIOUS ASS. There were sisters on the team - unbelievable girls and unbelievable athletes - and they became semi Rhode Island stars for a couple seasons. They both were toweringly tall, and incredible on the court. They were referred to as "the twin towers".

I went to a big sports school. A typical public school. We had massive pep rallies for the football team, we had a fierce and ugly rivalry with the team from the neighboring town ... our school was pretty much all about football. (Although the guys who played on our soccer team were pretty much universally lusted after by the girl population in our school. There was always something cool and kind of hot about soccer players. Even before Posh & Becks, thank you very much.) Our boy's basketball team also got a lot of attention ... the games were always packed.

But girls sports? Not so much. Nobody gave a shit about girls sports. There were no pep rallies for the girls basketball team - even though they were, during my senior year, the most successful sports team in our school. They were kicking ass. They were going to go to the state championships, probably. And yet ... no glory. The school didn't get behind them - at least not in the way the school typically did for football.

Our champions were having a great season - pretty much unnoticed by the school at large.

And of course - the football team and the boys basketball team had their own cheerleading squads. Teams of girls chosen SPECIFICALLY to cheer on the boys. Fair enough. Tradition and all that.

But ... er ... the girls basketball team is rocking the house ... they don't deserve cheerleaders? It suddenly struck us as so ... horribly unfair ... and GROSS ... that girls would cheer for boys, but nobody would cheer for girls.

What I love about this story is that we (my friends) recognized the injustice in the situation - but we didn't write whiny letters to The Rebellion (the school newspaper) - bemoaning the lack of support for girls. We didn't write letters to the Principal, pointing out the sexism in the fact that BOYS teams got pep rallies before a big game ... but GIRLS teams did not. No. We didn't use those normal attention-getting tactics. We didn't become shrill, we did not attack. We didn't ask anyone in authority to fix the situation.

But mark my words. We were pissed.

So what did we do? We took the situation into our own hands. We formed a cheerleading squad. For the girls basketball team.

We didn't clear it with anyone. We didn't ask permission. We just did it.

My friend Anne was the main organizer and the brains behind the idea. Now please understand: None of us were cheerleaders. At least not by trade. We were not gymnasts. We were not dancers. We were not girlie-girls. We did not KNOW ANY CHEERS.

So we conceived of ourselves as: a kind of dark goofy version of a cheerleader. We had passion for our team, we didn't snark about THAT ... but the entire thing, our routines (that we made up) - was about making fun (subtle fun - not mean fun) of the instituion of cheerleading, in general. The institution of cheering for the boys. And how odd it was (and how ODD that it was ODD) to have GIRLS cheering for GIRLS.

Newspaper articles were written about us. The opposing teams, at first, thought we were nuts. Who are these girls cheering on the sidelines, and during breaks? What girls team has cheerleaders? That's. So. Stupid.

But we took ourselves seriously. We had cheerleader practice. We made up cheers. We made fun of regular cheerleader cheers - making up our own versions. We did messy somersaults, but then leapt to our feet, and took a cheerleader pose to finish off the cheer. We were snarky. We were comedic. We imitated regular cheerleaders, but because we so obviously were not real cheerleaders - people would howl with laughter when they saw us. Sometimes that laughter would be mean. More often than not, though - people got the joke, and got into the spirit of what we were trying to do.

We did not give a shit what we looked like. We gloried in our own goofiness.

Our uniform was:

1. Grey sweatshirts
2. Men's boxer shorts
3. Hi-top sneakers

And our name?

The Phys. Wrecks.

Within a couple of weeks of us cheering at the girls games (and I'm not kidding about this - this is one of the things I'm proudest of in high school) - the crowds started to grow, at the girls basketball games. We had pumped people up. We did goofy cheers in the cafeteria during school - we manufactured a pep rally since the school wouldn't have an official one - and got people to come to the game. Soon - the bleachers were full to overflow at every game.

And one of our greatest triumphs was that the boys from other sports teams - football players, basketball players, soccer players ... started coming to the girls games. They started to take an interest. They came en masse - huge groups of rowdy jock high school boys - to scream like maniacs for the girls from their school. Unprecedented.

God. That was a proud moment.

And we did it without hectoring the administration, or scolding the boys. We just pumped up the enthusiasm and let people know: Our girls are rocking the house this year!!

I loved, too, how much the boys sports teams LOVED US. They had their own cheerleader squads. They had girls cheering specifically for them, in little flaired skirts, and saddle shoes, and letter sweaters. But they seemed relatively indifferent to them. Oh, they dated them ... probably slept with many of them too .. but with us it was different. They LOVED us.

It was extraordinary ... those guys just LOVED us. After each cheer, they would all hold up numbers to us - as though they were Olympic judges. (The image of them MAKING those flash cards with all the different numbers is truly heart-cracking). We'd finish some goofball cheer, where we did a fake pyramid, or we would all do somersaults in a row - you could hear the waves of laughter erupting across the gym - and we'd finish our cheer - and glance up in the stands at all the jock boys to see what score they would give us.

It was such camaraderie. Such good-natured comedy.

That was what the Phys. Wrecks made possible. In a weird way, the Phys. Wrecks brought the school together. Because the girls teams are, after all, PART of the school. And we forced everybody to deal with that - but we did it in a way that was enthusiastic, comedic, and inclusive.

It was a blast - one of my great high school moments.

Here we are ... doing our "pyramid". I ruined the symmetry with my mis-placed arms. But that was all part of the Phys. Wrecks charm, I suppose. More photos unfurling below.

phys1.jpg

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The Phys. Wrecks - continued

We showed great versatility:

We cheered!

phys2.jpg

We clapped!

phys3.jpg

We rabble-roused!

phys4.jpg

Posted by sheila Permalink

The Phys. Wrecks - continued

We did stunts that took people's breath away - just in terms of the sheer virtuosity and courageous gymnastic skill we displayed.

phys5.jpg

Posted by sheila Permalink

The Phys. Wrecks - continued

We DEMANDED loyalty from the school.

Come on, people, cheer for your team ...


phys6.jpg


Ohhhh, come ON!!!

phys7.jpg

Posted by sheila Permalink

Phys. Wrecks - continued

We also were not above manipulation. We PLEADED with the school to support their own team.

phys8.jpg

Please, sir, I want some ...


more???

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Phys. wrecks - continued

And ... of course ... When our team won ... as they so often did ...

There really was no other appropriate way for me to express myself than this pose (which, I have to say, in all modesty - I executed with perfection):

phys9.jpg

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June 14, 2005

Random quote

Me: God, I am SO hungry!

Ann Marie: (in a tone of complete agreement) Yeah, I could kill someone.

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June 8, 2005

Triumvirate member emerging ...

Member the triumvirate?

This post will make no sense if you don't remember. heh heh Hell, it might not make sense even if you do remember. Oh well.

Here's how the thing works, and here's why I can't explain any of it:

-- I start up this writing program tonight. Mkay? A new phase in my life.

-- I haven't heard from any of my triumvirate in ... 3 years? Can't remember. Long long time. We've moved on. Not a PEEP outta one of them. There are grapevine murmurs, occasionally ... from friends of friends ... but I've had no direct contact with any of them, and I haven't contacted them either. No biggie. I barely think about it - except in rare moments, like when I wrote that old post.

-- So last night, I'm online, and one of them emails me. Out of the blue. ??? I do not know where he is living now, or what he is doing, or anything about his present-day life ... I am even shocked he has my email. Because as I mentioned in that original post: I never really communicated with the triumvirate in a conventional way. (I talk about them like they are a monlith. Forgive me. They are 3 separate beings, individuals - and none of them know each other. It's just a shorthand.) None of them are in my address book, for example. I have none of them on speed-dial. I don't know their emails. You get the drill.

-- So anyway. I felt this BOLT of excitement, fear, adrenaline ... when I saw his name in my email box. What??? You?????? I was so happy!! Yet fearful, too that something bad might have happened? Has he lost a parent? Has he lost a leg? Has he lost his mind? Why would he email me so after so much time?

-- I open up the email. And here is what it says:

"I think you should write a novel about your experiences with me. It would be a bestseller."

And that was it. bwahahahahaha No catch-up stuff, no "hey, how are you, here's what I'm up to ..." No. He just fired off that two-sentence missive, and that was that.

But ... the weird thing is that I'm starting up this writing program ... and that email comes on the day before I start it? I try not to be all "ooooh, look at the deep meaning" about everything, but this one definitely struck me as a little odd. And cool, don't get me wrong. I loved his message. I completely got the spirit in which he sent it.

Of course he would email me with that blunt suggestion after years of no communication. It wasn't so much: "Write a novel about me!!! Me me me!!" I knew the real meaning instantly. He didn't even need to say it outloud, because I know him, and he wouldn't have to explain himself. What he was REALLY saying was: 1. Hope you're keeping up with your writing. 2. Didn't we have a blast together? It should be a book!

It's weird, that's all. And kind of perfect that it would come now ... as opposed to 3 months ago ... or even at the time that I wrote that first triumvirate post.

My friend David always says, "Sheila. Your life is a literary conceit. You can't see it, cause you're in it. But trust me. It is."

It is a moment like this that I can see why he says that.

I suppose all of our lives play out like literary conceits.It's just strange when you become aware of it. The patterns, the hidden meanings ...

Like I said, I really try not to bog myself down with hidden meanings, and "oooh, look at the Pattern of Life ..." That way heartbreak lies. (See my soulmate series - starting here.) You can't get too rigid with all this New Age stuff, or it mightl turn around and bite you in the ass.

But still. There's something a little bit strange and a little bit perfect about hearing from that ex-flame at this particular moment. And with that particular email, too. Not trite, or casual. Not: "Hi, how are you? Thought I'd drop you a line. It's been a while!"

No. In typical triumvirate fashion, he lobs his cut-to-the-chase message right out there, knowing I'll catch it, knowing I'll understand.

And I do.

Pretty cool.

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June 2, 2005

Topics covered last night...

at Willie McBride's ... in no particular order:

-- The evils of Scientology.

-- And on a related note: we talked about: what is up with Tom Cruise? He seems like he is completely LOSING it. My point was (and thank you, Alex, for pushing me further and further along in my conviction): Cults operate successfully only when they are stealthy and keep a low-profile. Their entire operation depends on not too many people knowing exactly what they're doing. Scientology is a classic example. If you walk into a Scientology building, you can't get a pamphlet of their beliefs and practices like you can do with most any other organization. No. You have to sign up to find out what it's about. They keep their actual beliefs SECRET. It is essential to the survival of the cult. But now comes chatty-Tommy, yammering on Access Hollywood about the "fraud" of psychiatry, and chastising Brooke Shields publicly for taking antidepressants ... He is upping the profile of Scientology right now, and this is NEVER good for a cult. I bet a lot of Scientologists, who have used Tom Cruise's celebrity as proof of their own legitimacy, are kind of wishing he would shut up now. Their own cynical use of people is now turning around and biting them on the ass. They pushed him to the front, to show that they obviously CAN'T be a cult if Tom Cruise is involved!! And now he's a loose Scientology-spouting cannon ... CW, in another comment thread about Scientology, said that he wondered if celebrities would end up being huge liabilities to the organization. I think we're seeing that happen RIGHT NOW.

-- we talked about Deep Throat.

-- we talked about Scott Peck.

-- we talked a lot about how we, as human beings, can only see a little bit far ahead of us - the headlights on a car at night revealing the road ...

-- we talked a lot about Anne Lamott. We both share a love of her writing.

-- we talked about Edgar Renteria. And how he's turning out to be not only good, but actually kind of feckin' awesome. We talked about Tim Wakefield, and we talked about Curt Schilling.

-- we talked a little bit about the United States consitution

-- we played Trivia. Our team name was called, appropriately: TOM CRUISE IS PSYCHOTIC. We have played competitive Trivia at Willie McBride's maybe 4 times now? Our first time we sucked BIG TIME. Our second time we sucked LITTLE TIME. Our third time we came close to not sucking. And this last time? We came in second, and we got a 10 dollar gift certificate to Willie McBride's as a prize. So we are getting better, stronger, faster ... The people who play Trivia there are HARD CORE, so we have to stay sharp. We can't lose our edge.

-- in between rounds, we talked about "love is merely a madness"

-- some of our triumphs in Trivia (see if you can guess them):
Who lit the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996?
Which Nobel prize winning author died this year?
Which US President had the middle name "Wilson"?
What 3 countries make up Scandinavia?

-- some of our failures in Trivia:
What is the length between the pitcher's mound and home plate? Unbelievably, we did not get this one. Our guess was, actually, the length between home plate and first base. Bummer.
Where were Prince Charles and Lady Di married? I made us say Westminster Abbey. This is incorrect.
There was one question which I can't remember ... but the answer was "Kareem Abdul Jabar" and we guessed "Wilt Chamberlain"
What is the meal most commonly ordered in American restaurants? (The multiple choice possibilities were: 1. roast beef, 2. spaghetti, 3. fried chicken, 4. fried shrimp.) We guessed roast beef. That's incorrect.

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May 22, 2005

Light. Synthesis. Grace. Gratitude.

I spent the weekend with my 3 bestest oldest friends - Betsy, Beth, Mere. Words cannot express how dear these women are to me. Beth and Mere have been friends since they were 5. Betsy and I have been friends since we were 10. The four of us have been friends since we were 13. And here we all still are. Thick as thieves. Close. We rarely get so out of touch that we have to spend a lot of time "catching up". I fully realize how lucky we are, how rare it is. It's a joy. It's also so fantastic to have friends who truly KNEW YOU WHEN. It helps you keep perspective, it helps keep you down to earth. I can't really put much past these women. A great gift.

So they left their busy lives, their kids, their husbands ... packed up the air mattresses in a car, and trekked down to my hood.

They arrived at 11 on Friday night, after taking a detour through Queens. They called me from the road asking me how to get to the Lincoln Tunnel from "71st Avenue". Uhm ... Avenue? I said, "It should be Street. I don't know of any 71st Avenue." Then came another street-name from their end- only it wasn't of the numerical sort. "How about Continental Drive? How 'bout that?" "I have no idea what you are talking about. 71st Avenue and Continental Drive? There is no such thing." (At least on the island of Manhattan ... but at that point I didn't know they were in Queens. Neither did they.) Needless to say, we finally figured it out. Sadly, I could not tell them how to get into Manhattan ... but basically all they did was keep the Empire State Building in their view, and drove towards it. It ended up working out ... and suddenly there they all were, at my door. Betsy had brought five bottles of wine. hahaha I already had three bottles ... so we were all set. (We ended up only drinking two of the bottles, believe it or not.)

Yesterday was just a fanTAStic day. We woke up early, we had a vat of coffee, we hung out in my apartment for a bit ... the day was glorious. Sunny, warm, mild. We decided to go to Central Park. We spent hours, wandering through the Park. People-watching (we saw multiple weddings going on ... brides wandering about randomly, laughing for the cameras), nature-watching ... Sadly, I was wearing my new fancy-schmancy flip-flops. They look amazing but dammit. They caused me MUCH problems later ... problems that I still endure today.

We emerged from the Park, hours later. We took the train downtown to the Village to do some shopping. We browsed about, we went to a flea market - which was awesome. Lots of browsing. I met a kindred spirit - a lovely man who had an entire display of perfectly preserved old Interview magazines. He is hoping to get MOMA to do a retrospective of the artwork in Andy Warhol's old mag ... Now, I was a huge Interview fan. Not so much now. But the old ones? He's right. They are works of art. Nobody was really visiting his area, but I hung out there, blabbing with him for a while. I am so excited about his project. I think he was excited to meet someone who was excited about it! I told him I actually wrote an angry letter to Interview a couple years ago, berating them for how their magazine (in particular - their artwork and their photography) has gone down the tubes. It was a very articulate letter, filled with compliments about what the magazine used to be ... and they did print the letter. Only a part of it though. They printed a paragraph that, out of context, made me sound like a shrill lunatic. haha I think he enjoyed the story, and in that moment - he realized I was a kindred spirit. In terms of how much we revered the OLD Interview. I hope MOMA puts up a show. I really do. I'll keep my eye open for this lovely gentleman - I think he's got some really great ideas.

By this point, my feet were pretty much in agony. I bore up well, but ... it took a lot of stiff-upper-lip grinning-and-bearing-it. We passed by a store called Native Crafts or something like that. The kind of place that sells incense, crystals, and has lots of books about angels. In other words: HEAVEN. We spent a glorious time in there, buying a lot of "smelly" stuff. Holding up incense sticks and lavendar smudge-sticks in each other's faces, commanding: "Smell this." We felt the rocks, we admired the crystals, we discussed the properties of hematite. Mere and I are the incense-queens (as I have discussed here) so we went a little nuts. She left me some of her India Moon and I gave her some of my white-sage leaves. All's right with the world. Beth showed me a book that was called something like: SAY YES TO LOVE. FIND YOUR SOULMATE! But the kicker was - the most offensive thing about it was - below the title. It said something like: "By God. As told to so-and-so and so-and-so." Uhm - you claim God speaks to you? You are arrogant enough to tell me that your book on SOULMATES is really "by God ... as told to YOU"???? Right there, in a nutshell, is my entire scorn for the soulmate industry. Beth was so excited to show it to me, because she knew I would fly off the handle. And I did. Standing there in the delicate New Age shop. (My ranting on soulmates here (check out the second to last comment in that post - he pretty much proved my point), here, and here. This will be a continuing series, so strong are my feelings about it.)

Finally, the Sheila foot situation was too much. I needed to SIT DOWN. So we headed back to Hoboken. It was about 5 in the afternoon, a lovely afternoon, with long low rays of sun. A perfect day, really. We got off the PATH and decided to have a drink at the bar across the street, just relax a bit, before going off and having dinner somewhere. The bar is beautiful, cavernous - with high ceilings, a long copper bar. Also, they have these big open windows everywhere - so even though it's dark in the bar, you still get natural light coming in, and a great cross-breeze. A perfect place to decompress AND TAKE MY SHOES OFF. We drank margaritas. (Actually, Beth had gin and tonics.) We watched the Preakness. We watched the same shot over and over and over again of the horse almost falling. We blabbed to each other. The way we have been blabbing to one another since we were pre-pubescent. About our lives, our jobs, our men, what we've been thinking about lately, or struggling with ... And can I just say that that margarita tasted so damn good, after our long day of walking in the sun.

We decided to go uptown for dinner, and due to my FOOT SITUATION we took a cab. (Turns out that was the perfect choice, due to the monsoon which was quickly heading our way ... although we didn't know it at the time.)

We had pretty much the best cab ride ever, along the Hudson. I climbed in the front seat, the other three climbed in the back, and we were off. Our driver - a taciturn gentleman with a mustache - was listening to Neil Diamond, quietly. Within the first two seconds of the ride, we heard the beginning sounds of "Forever in Blue Jeans". You could feel the excitement hit all of us. I could hear Mere start to sing along softly, in the back seat. In the next second, Beth and Betsy joined in. Our lovely driver, taciturn though he may have been, immediately picked up on the vibe in the car. And what did he do? He reached over to the radio, and turned the volume up. WAY UP. We careened along beside the river, New York gleaming across the water, a strange black cloud descending over the blue sky from the north ... giving a strange schizophrenic look to the evening ... with "Forever in Blue Jeans" BLARING. And we all sang along at the TOPS of our lungs. It was so JOYOUS. At one point, I turned around to glance in the back seat, and I saw all three heads bobbing back and forth, like little happy bobble-heads. hahaha I am sure we made this driver's night. It was so funny, too ... he didn't say ONE WORD. Just reached over, with this subtle quiet gesture, and cranked that shite UP.

Money talks

but it don't sing and dance and it don't walk.
And long as I can have you here with me

I'd much rather be
forever in blue jeans.

Honey's sweet.
But it ain't nothing next to baby's treat.
And if you pardon me

I'd like to say we'll do okay

forever in blue jeans.

Maybe tonight

maybe tonight
by the fire all alone you and I;
nothing around but the sound of my heart and your sighs.

Money talks.
But it can't sing and dance and it can't walk.
And long as I can have you here with me

I'd much rather be
forever in blue jeans
babe.

And honey's sweet.
But it ain't nothing next to baby's treat.
And if you pardon me

I'd like to say we'll do okay

forever in blue jeans.

Maybe tonight

maybe tonight
by the fire all alone you and I;
nothing around but the sound of my heart and your sighs.

And money talks.
But it don't sing and dance and it don't walk.
And long as I can have you here with me

I'd much rather be
forever in blue jeans.

And long as I can have you here with me

I'd much rather be
forever in blue jeans
babe.


Oh GOD, we all were like: I have not heard that song in years, and here I am - I remember EVERY WORD, and it makes me SO HAPPY. The song ended right as we pulled up at our restaurant, we gave him a huge tip, he still didn't say a word, but I saw this twinkle in his taciturn eyes. We all gushed at him, "THANK YOU, THANK YOU!" He couldn't smile ... he was too taciturn ... but I knew he was smiling in his heart.

We sat down at a table at Liberty. Within 30 seconds, Mere exclaimed, "Is that rain?" We looked outside, and not only was it raining, but it was an apparent sudden hurricane. Rain batting against the windows in sheets, people struggling with umbrellas, trees bending to the side ... damn. We just missed that one. We had spent the entire day outside, gloriously, and here we were, safe at dinner, and all hell breaks loose.

We took a cab back to my place, and were so so excited to get into pajamas and comfy clothes. It was 9 pm. Yeah, baby. Saturday night. My feet were in a deplorable condition. I got out my foot-bath kit (yes. I have a kit), and began the ritual of tending to my poor piggies. I am a bit ashamed to admit this, but my feet were so swollen that I basically had developed cankles. I said, "Guys. LOOK at my feet." They all stared at the swollen balloons that only 20 minutes before had been teetering around in the flip-flop platforms ... and were shocked. Beth couldn't stop staring at them. I was puttering about, doing other things, and every time I glanced at Beth, she was staring at my feet. hahah Like someone entranced. "I'm sorry ... I can't stop staring ... they don't even look like feet."

I soaked my feet. We turned on the Red Sox game, watched it. I lay on my bed, with my poor balloon feet on a pillow. Mere glanced at my feet at one point and burst into hysterics. I exclaimed, "I KNOW, okay? They look AWFUL, I know!!" She said, "No, no ... it's not that ... it's just that ... you have a match stuck to your foot." Somehow, I had a match stuck to my big blow-up-doll cankle ... it really can't get more pathetic than that. And you know you've got a good friend when she picks a match off your cankle.

We all fell asleep simultaneously at 10 pm.

This morning, we went up to my roof. It was raining a bit - a drizzle, and yet across the way, the sky gleamed openly over Manhattan. Spectacular.

Oh, and we did Angel Cards. (We bought them at the New Age shop we went to. For anyone who has no idea what Angel Cards are ... here.)

It was wonderful - we spread them out on my bed, and each picked one. The words we picked, individually, make up the title to this post.

I think they perfectly describe the weekend as a whole.

Posted by sheila Permalink | Comments (14)

May 16, 2005

Reunion snapshots - so Alex won't be mad at me.

-- Jackie's hair is blonde, short and sexy. She looks fantastic. It appeared to me that she may have been wearing Revlon "Coffee Bean" lipstick, but I can't be sure. Sooo good to see her.

-- It was so heartwarming to see Stuart, Jackie's husband. The guy is incredible, and ... have to say it ... kind of makes my heart fill up with emotion. He's so warm, so kind and ... so funny. I love him for loving Jackie, and I am glad he is in my life.

-- Their kids are AMAZING. I had never met the littlest one. And I can't believe how big and grown-up the oldest one is now.

-- Children. Everywhere. Driving mini-cars, swinging, sudden bursts of screaming and crying, tears flowing, 5 minutes later: all is happy again in kids-land. They all watched Monsters, Inc. They drew with chalk in the driveway.

-- "Dumb Donald" made an appearance. Dumb Donald has been a character in all of our lives for twenty years. My friend Brett (he of "Mexico: the Flower of Europe" fame) started becoming "Dumb Donald" way back in college. Dumb Donald wears a fur hat, and just stands around dumbly, arms hanging limply, trying to be friends with us. Dumb Donald is supremely annoying, and he can show up at ANY TIME. Brett will be sitting around with us, normal as ever, talking, laughing ... then he'll disappear without notice for a couple of seconds. Conversation continues, life goes on, and suddenly Brett reappears, only now he is wearing the fur hat, and now he is obviously Dumb Donald. We immediately begin to abuse Dumb Donald. At first we TRY to be nice ... but it's a pose. "Hey, Don ... uhm ... how did you get here? Were you invited, or ..." and then, as Dumb walks around, limply, with big dumb bug eyes gleaming, trying to bond with us ... our meanness escalates. We turn Dumb Donald into our servant, because we know he won't complain. We boss him around. We send him out of the room. We make Dumb get us drinks. We make Dumb Donald throw out our paper plates. We call him, "Dummy". The game escalates until, of course, someone says something WAAAAAYYYY beyond the pale, and we all erupt into laughter and the game ends. So yesterday, barbecue is happening. Life is wonderful. And then suddenly ... Brett emerges from the house, wearing THE fur hat, Dumb Donald in all his glory. Dumb Donald acts primarily as the recipient of all of our latent aggression. It's really kind of a sick game, actually, but we have not yet tired of it, and it's been going on for twenty years. The fact that Brett BROUGHT THE DUMB DONALD HAT to the barbecue is all you need to know about why I love this man, and why we have been friends for so long.

-- We all watched David's commercials (the Reebok ads series) - David as this hyped-up guy named Larry, trying to bond with the professional athletes who live in his neighborhood. Dion Branch. Mike Vrable. Tim Wakefield. We all laughed and clapped - it's a great series of spots, really funny. Mike Vrable inadvertently knocks David into the grill, David crashes to the ground. Mike tries to help him up, and David - mortified - says something like, "It's just football, man." David got to play catcher to Tim Wakefield's pitches. So fun. David made us watch the spots twice ... so we could revel in the subtlety of his acting. "Okay, now watch the little moment I have when Dion says ..." I love how David's character in the commercial breezily calls Tim Wakefield "Wake". hahahaha So cool! New Englanders, keep your eyes open for the commercials. They play multiple times during all Red Sox games.

-- David was master grill man. Ribs. Chicken. Dee-lish.

-- The weather cooperated. Beautiful cool afternoon and night. The chalk marks gleaming on the black driveway.

-- After the throngs left, David, Maria (his wife), Mitchell and I sat around the patio table, and watched Emma (David and Maria's daughter) do cartwheels and roundoffs for us, as the twilight fell. Emma, her face glowing, dirt stains on her lavendar corduroys, leaping and flipping through the long green grass.

-- Peace.

Posted by sheila Permalink | Comments (7)

May 13, 2005

The Chicago contingency

Here's the timeline. It'll probably be very boring for those of you who don't know me. But the Chicago Contingency will get a kick out of it.

-- David's a great friend of mine. David and I graduate college in the same year.

-- In the summer after our graduation, David and his girlfriend (now wife) moved to Chicago. Chicago's one of the best places for actors in this country. So off they went.

-- I, on the other hand, flailed about for a while. I was dating someone at the time (whose name is EVERYWHERE today, coincidentally, because he's a lawyer, and he was hugely involved in the Michael Ross case. I woke up this morning to the sound of my radio-alarm blasting my first boyfriend's voice through my dark room. Uhm. Weird.) ANYWAY. Boyfriend was in law school.

-- My friend Jackie and I spent the fall after graduation working in a factory on an assembly line. That's a whole post in and of itself. We WERE those girls in Officer and a Gentleman. Meanwhile: we heard stories from David - doing well in Chicago - doing shows, flourishing.

-- Despite this, I ended up moving to Philadelphia to be with boyfriend.

-- I missed Mitchell and Jackie, my best friends ... they were both still up in Rhode Island. I missed David. I never saw him anymore. He was in Chicago. Doing well. I was in Philadelaphia. And not doing well.

-- Boyfriend got a job in San Francisco. We began to plan a cross-country trip.

-- The summer before we took off for San Fran, we went home to RI to attend the going-away barbecue for Jackie - who had decided to move to Chicago. Chicago's a good place for actors. Jackie decided to take the risk and go. David happened to be home for the going-away party, so he was there. I ended up DRILLING David about his life in Chicago, how much he liked it, would I like it there ... I was in the process of moving to California ... but it just didn't feel right to me. I knew that I should be in Chicago. Weird, how clear a sensation it was at the time.

-- On our way across country, we stopped off in Chicago to visit David and Maria and now Jackie - who had been there for 3 months and was loving it. I had never been to Chicago before. I fell in LOVE with the place. We walked along the lake, we had pizza, we talked ... We slept over at Jackie's apartment on Melrose (strangely enough: THREE MONTHS LATER, I would be living in the same apartment building. I had no way of knowing that at the time. I thought I was moving to California to be with my boyfriend, and I was ... but damn, things fell apart fast. And through sheer coincidence: when I ended up moving to Chicago, I got an apartment EXACTLY above the one where Jackie was living at the time. Strange ... if you had whispered in my ear during my visit there: "Uhm, 3 months from now, you and your boyfriend will be history, and you will be living on this same street" I would have scorned the thought as impossible.)

-- Boyfriend and I proceeded to have the cross-country-trip-from-hell.

-- He moved to San Fran. I moved to LA. Then my camper van broke down. On my hysterical walk home from the repair shop, I called my friend Jackie collect, in tears, sobbing: "I am coming to live there ... I have got to get out of there ... can I stay with you in Chicago for a while until I get back on my feet?" She immediately shouted, "YES! YES! COME HERE! STAY WITH ME! COME HERE!"

-- A month later, I arrived in Chicago. With one suitcase. And fifty bucks. I am not exaggerating. I left everything behind in a random garage in California and had to send for it later.

-- I immediately knew I did the right thing. Chicago suited me. It was a great town.

-- I am heartbroken over the end of my relationship. I cried on Jackie's couch. But at the same time, I immediately got cast in a show, I immediately started having fun and dating other people, and immediately started living the life of my dreams.

-- I got my own apartment. I had never had my own apartment. I was in utter heaven.

-- Jackie, David, David's girlfriend and I had this amazing relationship out in Chicago. We had all been good college friends ... but we become even better friends in that more adult context.

-- We were all doing shows. Chicago is great for actors.

-- 9 months after I got there, Mitchell arrived. The Rhode Island contingent hit Chicago in staggered waves. Mitchell, who had been back in RI doing shows, finally decided to get the hell out. When he arrived in Chicago, he stayed with me. I did for him what Jackie did for me.

-- Mitchell and I lived for something like 6 months in a one-room apartment. There was a single bed. I must reiterate: it was one room. I took a panorama shot of the place once ... just to capture the moment in time. Mitchell and I proceeded to absolutely tear UP Chicago. Oh, the stories. Jackie joined in on the exploits. There was one memorable evening at a Mexican restaurant ... but that's for another post.

-- Mitchell and I moved. We found another apartment. We lived there for a year.

-- Meanwhile, David and his girlfriend got married. We all flew back to RI for the wedding. We've all known one another since we were 18 years old, 17 years old ... but here we are. Growing up together.

-- David auditioned for graduate school. He got in. He and his wife left, which was a wrenching change for all of us. Our little home-away-from-home, our community ... breaking up. David and his wife, the marrieds, provided the three of us, the nutso singles, with a lovely atmosphere whenever we went over: coffee brewing, something good cooked ... it was a respite, a place we could relax. When the two of them departed for the east coast, it was sad. It definitely left a hole.

-- 1994 was one of the craziest saddest most exhilarating years of my life. Fun. Awful. UnforGETTABLE. Chicago. Wow.

-- 1995. I decided I needed to move. Go to grad school. Get my ass to New York. I got into grad school. I moved back East. I never got over missing Chicago ... even though I slowly accepted that now I lived HERE and not back THERE. But Chicago will always be the city of my heart.

-- Years pass. I visited Chicago as much as I could, flying back during spring breaks, winter breaks. To see my old friends Mitchell and Jackie, still living and flourishing in Chicago.

-- Right before I left for grad school, Jackie became involved with a man she had known for a long time (who we both had known for a long time) ... They started dating, tentatively ... but we all had this sense about it. A sense that turned out to be prescient. He is now her husband. Even back then, as it was beginning, we all had the sense: "Hmmm. This is probably it. Jackie will probably marry him." We were all so happy for her and for him. I felt like it was time to move on ... that those years in Chicago - of being free, wild, impetuous (we all lived our lives that way) were coming to an end. We were all moving on, in separate ways ... committing to the things that mattered to us, grounded us.

-- Funnily enough, when I moved back East, I moved to Hoboken - and David and his wife were ALSO living in Hoboken. It seemed to be our destiny to always somehow be in each other's lives in an everyday way. When I moved back, David's wife was pregnant. A happy time. Again: change, growth, moving on ... never forgetting our years in Chicago, when we nurtured our friendships, and lived according to our own rules, and pleased ourselves ... but we didn't just live in the past. We didn't just cling to the old days. We accepted that things change, and alter ... You can't ever go back. But still. Those memories are sweet.

-- Mitchell flourishes in Chicago still.

-- Jackie, her husband, and two children, recently moved back East - and live in Connecticut.

-- David and his wife now have two amazing little girls.

-- And this Sunday, for the first time in YEARS - I mean, literally, I can't remember the last time this happened - we are all getting together to have a barbecue out at David's. We will all be there. Mitchell is flying in. I will be there. Jackie, her husband, her two kids. David, Maria, their two kids. This close contingency of friends ... we have all been through SO MUCH together ... Stuff you never forget. I have held Jackie when she cried, I have crawled into bed with Mitchell when I couldn't sleep and thought I couldn't make it through the night, I showed up on David and his wife's doorstep one night - because I had a story to share from my own life that COULD NOT WAIT ... I sang in Jackie's wedding... The bond is forever. In Chicago, we had rituals. We had breakfast at Max's deli. We splurged and went to Rose Angelis on occasion. We had Pictionary nights over at David's. Or we would play Trivial Pursuit. The five of us went to see James Taylor together - outside - right before David left. We have helped each other through life's tragedies. Death of a parent, serious illness, heartbreaks, addictions ... It's all come up. Now some of them have children, and that's beautiful to see. My dear old old friends, being parents. Hanging out with their children. Seeing these little creatures - created by my old college friends ... what? It's so awesome!

We spent our years in Chicago just BEING there for each other, and forming ourselves into the adults that we are today.

Sunday. It should be good.

Posted by sheila Permalink | Comments (5)

March 30, 2005

Friendship is...

... having a great girlfriend email you, urgently, and say: "Do you know the tune to the line 'all our sins and griefs to bear' from the song 'What a friend we have in Jesus'?" and not question why she needs to know. So you email her back instantly. "Yes. I know that line." Her email comes back immediately. "Could you please sing it into my answering machine? I have an audition in an hour and I need to know the tune to that particular line." So ... knowing that your friend is standing right by the phone, you pick up your cell phone, regardless of your surroundings, and you sing "What a Friend We Have In Jesus" directly into her answering machine. Of course, because of the absurdity of it, and because you cannot get the image out of your mind of your friend standing right there, you burst out laughing a couple of times during the song and have to start again. Finally, "all our sins and griefs to bear" is safely on her answering machine, without any guffawing interruptions of laughter, and you can stop singing hymns into your cell phone in a fluorescent-lit public space.

I have GOT to hear that message. My friend just emailed me quickly and said, "It was so hard not to pick up. That was one of the funniest things I've ever heard in my life."

Posted by sheila Permalink | Comments (11)

March 23, 2005

A re-post - "Man in the Mirror"

This is a post I wrote when Michael Jackson was indicted by a grand jury. I decided to post it again because of the conversation going on here. It's a really unpopular thing to admit right now, but I cannot deny it. So here we go.

Once upon a time, I loved Michael Jackson. I owned Thriller. I owned Off the Wall. I thought his videos were the coolest things I had ever seen. I grew up in the 80s. He was IT at the time. IT.

However, I have not loved Michael Jackson for a long long time now. Not because he's on trial, or because he's such a FREAK, or weird, or whatever ... all of these things are true, but that's not what made the tide turn. I think the tide began to turn for me around the time when that video came out which was a fascist fantasy. Anyone remember that? The one with Michael in bright red military garb and mirrored Qaddafi-esque sunglasses, marching along the empty avenue in front of robotic troops, and then the unveiling of the 30-story high statue of Michael, with helicopters flying between the statue's legs. It was Stalinesque, the whole thing was really weird.

When I saw that (whenever that was) I remember thinking: "Huh. That's ... how you say in English ... a bit loony."

Huge egos are to be expected in that industry, but ... a fascistic fantasy of taking over the world? It's a bit much, dude. Tone it down.

And the face-shifting surgery (where was the cute black kid on the Off the Wall album cover? Where did he go? I LOVED him!), and then the first scandal with kids sleeping in his bed, and the huge settlement paid out, and then his utterly bizarre stunt against Tommy Mottola a couple years ago, parading through New York holding up signs of Mottola as a devil and suddenly accusing him of racism (huh? Michael. Please. First of all: YOU ARE WHITE NOW. Second of all, you have made millions and millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars for the record company. You have one bad album come out, which is your own fault, and suddenly they're racists? You're a lunatic.) Then came the baby-dangling fiasco, and the unbelievably revealing documentary that came out last year ...

I mean, the man is a lunatic.

And to top it all off ... his music sucks now, too. And it has for a long while. It's over.

I look now at his inhuman-looking face, the sculpted planes of his strange bones, and I remember the jolly kid with the Afro, wearing a tux, and I mourn it. I mourn the loss of that kid. I really do.

For those of you who always thought he was a freak, or for those of you who hate his music - you will not get this post at all.

But I have extremely fond and personal memories tied up with some of his songs. He was a huge part of my life in high school, and my first couple of years of college. Watching him self-destruct has been vaguely upsetting. And enraging, as well.

Spoke with my friend Mitchell today who told me about Chris Rock's comments on the issue - something along the lines of: "Dude, we gave you a pass on that first kid. You got a pass. And now you are GOIN' DOWN."

Looks that way.

But Mitchell and I did have a brief moment of nostalgia for one of our favorite memories in our friendship which has to do with a Michael Jackson song. For one semester in college, Mitchell and I were not speaking to one another, for various reasons. There was a Cold War going on between us, and we now refer to it as "the Bad Time". We were BEST friends, and yet we did not speak for 4 months. There was this frozen rage between us. (It's so funny to think of now, but at the time it was deadly serious.)

We were doing a show, and once, before rehearsal, he and I found ourselves alone in the men's dressing room, which was a long concrete room, with showers, lockers, and a line of makeup mirrors down the middle. Nobody else was around. Everyone left us alone at this point - the tension so huge you could smell it in the air, like ozone. We were FURIOUS with each other. But really what was going on was that we were so sad, we were so sad that we were in a fight, and that we couldn't apparently be friends. I cried myself to sleep every night. I MISSED him. But I couldn't give in. I just couldn't.

And so he and I sat there in the now-emptied gray dressing room, tensely, quietly, not knowing what to say. Mitchell, to break the mood, turned on the boom box. We were all very into Michael Jackson's album "Bad" at the time. It was all we listened to. You got that? IT WAS ALL WE LISTENED TO. I am unable to listen to that album now without immediately being transported back in time, specifically to that very time in my life, that one semester in college, when Bad was on constant rotation and I was in an awful silent fight with my best friend.

So Mitchell put on Bad and "Man in the Mirror" came on.

And without discussing it, without a word between us, without a noticeable thawing in the air or anything, Mitchell and I started dancing to that song, separately - not together - We were stridently separate - but we kept dancing, dancing until we were completely lost in it. It was one of those times when you become completely unself-conscious. You completely lose awareness of yourself as a body taking up space. It is like you become your spirit. That was what that 3 minutes was like for us, in the dressing room. We danced separately from one another, he on one side of the line of makeup mirrors, me on the other side. The music was transcendent, that chorus bursting forth at the end, the glimmering line of mirrors, his reflection dancing, mine ... I'll never forget it.

We were so separated. And yet so together.

When the song ended, we turned the tape deck off, realizing that we both had kind of "been" somewhere. We were no longer really in the same emotional place.

The frozen silence between us had broken. There would be no more "bad time". Somehow, through those weird separate dances, Mitchell and I forgave each other. Without saying a word. We found joy again. Joy in being together. Through the course of the song, all bitterness dissolved. Disappeared into thin air.

And so. I have a hard time imagining that Michael Jackson is not guilty, at this point. This is true. I also find the accusers to be very sketchy and suspect. I do not know the truth. One thing I do know, though, is that I'm sad. I'm sad that it has come to this, because he was once my favorite.

And regardless of the outcome of this trial: I am grateful to him for "Man in the Mirror". It may not be his greatest hit, but it's my heart's favorite. I am not blind to the sad irony that the person who really needs to listen to the message of the song is the man who sings it. But that's the tragedy of it. That's it.

I cherish that memory with my friend Mitchell, dancing like whirling dervishes, looking at our reflections in the line of mirrors, forgiving each other. Silently. Joyously.

Every time I hear that song, I think of that room, the grey walls, the reflections, the makeup lights, and Mitchell.

Posted by sheila Permalink | Comments (43)

February 1, 2005

A Total Haiku Fit - Part 1

Okay, I have a couple of really really stupid stories to tell about haikus.

I don't know why "haikus" were so in vogue for a while with my group of friends, but they were. We wrote haikus for EVERYTHING. We would leave haikus lying about the house. We would speak in full haikus, right at each other. EVERYTHING could be boiled down into 5-7-5. It was hard to NOT turn every headline, every billboard, into a haiku.

Mitchell and I were Haiku Central, pretty much. Because ... well ... we're nuts. There were a good 3 months there when ... we were probably even DREAMING in haiku form.

One of our jokes was that there should be a 1-800 number for "haiku emergencies". We created an imaginary dispatcher, and we made up an entire personality for the woman who answered the Haiku Hotline. Like, she was beleaguered, bitter, and OVER it. Snapping gum, dealing with Haiku Emergencies left and right. The chick had seen it all. Nothing would rattle her. She'd answer the phone, snapping her gum, "1-800 Haiku, how can I help you?" The emergency would then be described to her, breathlessly ... and 1-800 # lady would turn around and shout into the dispatch microphone: "LISTEN UP GUYS. WE GOT A CHICK HAVIN' A TOTAL HAIKU FIT DOWN THE MERCH MART. ANYONE AVAILABLE TO HANDLE IT?"

So stupid. We entertained ourselves for months on haikus. It appears now, in retrospect, that Mitchell and I were the ones having "a total haiku fit".

As described below, Mitchell and I wrote a series of Haikus for all of our favorite Winter Olympic athletes. This was in the winter of 1993. The Olympics of Tanya Harding. We wrote haikus about Tanya. I wrote one about Nancy Kerrigan. I have them all written down somewhere. THEY. ARE. SO STUPID.

Here is MItchell's haiku about Tanya Harding:

Pink Spandex Falters
Guilty Skates Have No Rhythm
The World Is Unmoved

Now ... if you DON'T find this funny ... well. It's okay. I don't hold it against you. Humor is subjective. But ... in MY world ... this is F***IN FUNNY. We did dramatic readings for each other of our STUPID haikus about Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. We spent the days CRYING with laughter.

During the entire Winter Olympics that year (we were obsessed with them) ... we sat scribbling haikus on various memo pads in our house. WHY??? I DO NOT KNOW.

I have never questioned it.

There is one other story I need to tell ... about my very own Haiku Fit ... Mitchell will know of what I speak, and so will Alex.

I need to work my way up to that one, though.

It's an insane story ... my own behavior STILL seems relatively incomprehensible to me (although, if I do say so myself, I get a total kick out of the whole thing.) I remember that time in my life so specifically ... my only goal was to live my life in as comedic a manner as possible. That was ALL that mattered. COMEDY was it. I wanted to have funny stories to tell my grandkids. That was IT. I took NOTHING seriously. I was young, what can I say. And so my main goal was to have a comedic life.

Naturally, this involved haikus.

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January 26, 2005

Willie McBride's meet-up

David and I got together last night, meeting up at Willie McBride's, for some convo, some catch-up, some alcohol. The drifts are now about as tall as I am, due to the snowplows, so parking in Hoboken is this HYSTERICAL challenge. But it all worked out.

I got there first, and when David came in - he walked over to me to hug me. We're both going through a lot. So we hugged, holding onto each other for a while. And in our deep tenderness, our deep old friendship, we knocked my beer off the table, and the glass shattered into a million pieces. It was ridiculous. David had been there literally 2 seconds, and we were having a quiet hello hug, and all HELL broke loose.

We were joking with the poor bartender, who had to sweep up the pieces. "We weren't even DOING anything - we were just HUGGING!" "It was just LOVE! That's all! Just LOVE!" She was laughing, and said, "Lemme tell ya, I would rather see LOVE break a beer glass, than the shenanigans of some drunken asshole bozo."

Yes. Very good point.

Willie McBride's is dark, there was a fire blazing, almost no one was there, ESPN Ocho was on, and David and I haven't seen each other in a long time. (In our world, 4 weeks is a long time. We're always having epiphanies and life-changing events and all that jazz ... we need to get caught up.)

And so we did just that.

We talked a lot about what's up with me right now. In my life, with my work, what I want. There's a ton. I won't share any of it here, but it's deep, and I'm struggling, and I'm also doing really WELL. It's everything. All at once.

We talked about AFTRA. SAG. Soap operas. Many great stories. Fascinating. Life-changing epiphanies every other second, basically.

We talked about the Patriots.

We talked about his beautiful daughters. Love those girls ... they're growing up so fast.

We talked about Scott Peck's book People of the Lie ... something David is really passionate about, something I've just picked up myself. Incredible stuff. Chilling. Lots and lots to discuss there. Scott Peck's psychology of evil. It's incredible stuff, and David and I talked about it like mad.

We talked about our dreams.

I'm all emotional right now. Having kind of a hard time, and yet it's also a really GOOD time. Hard to explain. It's intense. The intensity is unrelenting. I feel so AWAKE. (And yet - I've also been sleeping like a baby.) Sometimes I wish for less consciousness, less ... awareness. You know. I wish I was a little bit denser or something. But ... in order to achieve that ... I would need to have an entire personality change. (And so would David, by the way. We both talked about this.) And so ... the intensity, while exhausting, while upsetting sometimes, is actually (I know in my heart) my gift. Not just A gift, but really the only gift I have to share with the world. That's IT. If I don't share that ... then I got NOTHIN'.

Stella Adler, acting teacher, said once, "It is not that important to know who you are. It is important to know what you DO and then do it like Hercules."

That's kind of what I'm going through here.

Know what it is that you DO and then do it like Hercules.

I can't create some persona ... where stuff doesn't matter to me. Where I can't be hurt. You know, like: hey man, I'm cool, yeah man, whatever ... nah ... that didn't hurt me ... no worries ... whatever ... yeah, man ... cool ...

Uhm. No more. That kind of attitude was NEVER me anyway, but I cultivated this persona-thing around my work, etc., so I would be protected.

This is a survival technique. I won't completely discount it. That hard-cool persona saved my freakin' BUTT for a couple years there. But it no longer serves me now.

Whatever I experience, whatever intensity I have (kind of a dumb word ... can't think of a better one) MUST go into my work. That IS my work.

I can't try to calm it down, smooth it out, justify it, psychologize it, or be embarrassed about it (like: ooh, if I'm THAT intense, people will get uncomfortable) - because all of that? I will have nothing left. Fuck it. Without all of that SHITE, there is no art at all. At least for me. None. That's just the way it goes.

David and I talked about all of this a lot. We're kindred spirits in a way.

I've got a lot of pots bubbling on the stove right now. It's very very cool, actually. But it certainly helps to talk about all the OTHER stuff, with a friend who won't judge me, or try to fix it, or be all "helpful" with advice. If I don't talk about all this stuff, then that "hey man, yeah, it's cool, whatever happens happens" persona will come up again ... and I DON'T WANT HER ANYMORE.

SHE IS NO LONGER WELCOME.

Buh-bye chickie. You were a great help to me a while back ... you really were. I needed you then. But I don't need you anymore.

Take a hike.


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January 23, 2005

The snow is general all over New York

It's early Sunday morning, and there appears to be some sort of ... ehm ... a BLIZZARD outside. I slept over my friend Jen's last night, a cozy warm port in the storm (which had already begun). Out the window is insanity. The snow is still coming down, and the wind appears to be quite strong - I can hear it. I love snow. I do wonder, however, about my prospects getting home today. Hmmmm

Yesterday Jen and I had plans to go see a matinee of The Aviator. We met up at the Chelsea Clearview (where on May 6, 2005, a convening of the brightest minds of our generation will occur, to see the premiere of the long-awaited Hitchhiker's Guide!!!). The snow was already coming down pretty hard. It was beautiful. You could tell it meant business, but it was beautiful. New York City transforms when it snows. At least to my eyes. It becomes magic. Poetic. Everywhere you look you see beauty. In New York?? Yes. When it snows.

To get into the city from my small cliffside dwelling across the Hudson, I take these little rickety shuttle busses ... which are hysterical, and ... it feels a bit third-world. Like ... if you had a complaint about the driver, you literally wouldn't know who to call. Is it a legitimate company? No idea. But this is how everyone gets into the city from my town. What's amazing is that, on a good day, with no traffic, my commute (door to door, I'm talking) is 15 minutes. I leave my apartment, and in 15 minutes I'm in Times Square. Not too shabby.

So anyway, the snow is already coming down pretty seriously. I get on the bus. Which has about 20 seats. There are 6 other people on the bus, all bundled up like myself. The roads are very slushy, everyone is driving very cautiously. And on our approach to the Lincoln Tunnel, our wee bus did a damn DONUT. A full DONUT, careeening our way towards the turnstiles. It was nauseating. You could feel the skid start to happen ... and then ... uh oh ... here we go ... All 6 of us passengers, at the same time, went like this: "WoaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAohhhhhhhhhhhh" It was a roller-coaster sound ... starting slow and soft, then getting louder as we spun all the way around, and then dying down when ... we realized we were not dead.

So there was THAT.

I need to talk about The Aviator in some detail (in MAD detail) but I'll save that for another post. Jen and I came out of the movie at 6 pm. It was now dark, and the snow had continued to fall, without letup. The streets looked noticeably more difficult to manage. Almost no cars were driving. Everyone on the sidewalks hunched by us, faces down, staggering through the growing drifts.

We decided to have a sleepover. First, we went to Barnes & Noble to satisfy my immediate desire to buy a biography of Howard Hughes. (That is how I am. Curiosity about something blossoms overnight? Immediately go get 5 books about it. Ask no questions. Follow the obsession).

Jen and I slogged our way back to Hoboken. We decided to make dinner. Have some beer. Rent some movies. Jen decided to make cookies. So we had a shopping list. It took us about 45 minutes to do all of our errands, because our mobility was quite compromised, due to the growing drifts. Certain bars and restaurants were continuously shoveling in front of their establishments, and so as we strolled by, say, The Black Bear, we could move freely. But the second we reached the next storefront, we were in big trouble. However, snow is great. We love snow. We were happy.

We saw THE CUTEST LITTLE KID walking along with his mother. He was probably three years old. He was stuffed into a snowsuit (hence, he could barely move his arms) - and he was wearing a cool biking helmet and MASSIVE orange snow goggles. He looked like a small insect, with big bug-eyes. Or like a wee wee ninja fighter. And his mother was trying to move them along, to do her errands, stocking up for the storm ... but he, of course, HAD to try to walk through the drifts. His tiny mouse-voice blabbing to his mother, coming at us through the snowy night.

Errands finally accomplished ... ingredients for cookies purchased ... 2 movies rented (Dodgeball and Mean Girls) ... and finally we were ready for home.

In her apartment, we lit candles, we cooked, we drank beer, we talked incessantly about our lives, what we're going through right now, what we're struggling with, what we're excited about. She's one of my dearest friends. We played Bare Naked Ladies, blasted it really, and danced around manically, in our pajamas. Laughing hysterically. Bare Naked Ladies. Such HAPPY music. Really. Love them.

Then we settled down with our healthy feast of food, and watched Dodgeball.

And LAUGHED OUR ASSES OFF.

It is SO stupid. It is SO funny. It is SO ridiculous. I enjoyed every stinkin' second of that movie. My kind of humor. Absolutely STUPID. Like ... Vince Vaughn playing dodgeball?? What???? And that hilarious guy from Office Space? When has that actor EVER been asked to do ANYthing physical in a movie? He must, with his looks, always play geeks and weirdos. When has that actor ever had a slow-motion action sequence in a movie?? Well, in Dodgeball, he does. It is riotous.

And I fell suddenly and deeply in love with Justin Bateman. I couldn't get over the guy. Does anyone remember his small part in the movie? He plays the sidekick commentator, who is just kind of a cool clueless dude, wearing sunglasses, spiked hair ... with a name like Pepper or something ... Bateman doesn't have much to do in the movie, but he was cracking me UP. I am in love with him now.

We kept checking out the window at the progress of the storm.

Then we curled up under a fleece blanket, and I read out loud the Introduction to my new Howard Hughes biography. Then we talked about Howard Hughes for a while, talked about the movie.

I slept on the couch, like a feckin' diving bell under the ocean. I've been sleeping really really well lately ... different for me. Normally, I'm a bit more restless.

I dreamt about the Spruce Goose.

And woke up to a blindingly white snow-covered world.

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December 19, 2004

Pajama Party

The childhood friends Beth and Mere drove down this weekend to hang out in my wee abode. It was such a treat. Normally, they're the ones who host me - when I come home - and so it is always cool to be able to return the favor. Even though my apartment is the size of, perhaps, Beth's kitchen - it feels very good to be able to open up the joint, and have people over. One of the simplest pleasures in life. We did miss having Betsy with us ... The last "pajama party" I hosted was with Beth and Betsy - but perhaps this can become a bi-annual thing or something. A road trip taken by the old childhood friends. It pleases me so much to have guests!

Here is a moment which pretty much encapsulates the weekend:

We spent the afternoon on Saturday browsing to our hearts content through the open-air Christmas market in Union Square. I had really wanted to take them there, because it is quite special, and we had a blast. It was packed. Beth, at one point, said, "Could everyone else please go home, because I really would like to browse in peace?" It was lovely. Many gifts bought ... for kids, for husbands, for fathers-in-law ... It wasn't too bitter cold either. Afterwards, we walked across town with our booty. It had been a highly successful shopping venture. We were going to do some more window-shopping in the rich atmosphere of Greenwich Village. It was 5.30 pm. Okay? 5:30. It's dark by 5:30 now - so it felt (to us) much later.

I said, randomly, as we strolled along 18th street - "Okay ... so here are our choices. We can continue on downtown and shop a bit more in the Village."

Beth and Mere nod agreeably. "Sounds great!"

I continued. "OR - we can buy some wine, go home, get into our pajamas, and hang out and do Mad Libs."

There was a pause and they both said, "Uh ... let's totally do that second one."

heh heh heh

One of the beautiful things about the childhood friends is that it is never about WHAT you do, what activities ... and it is always about the quality of time spent. Mere and Beth have known one another since they were 6 years old. I met the two of them when we were all 12 years old. They are "eternal" friends. Even an entire continent couldn't separate that bond. We can NOT speak for months at a time, and then in one phone conversation that lasts 20 minutes, we catch up completely. We have a shorthand. We don't have to warm up to closeness again. It's there. Already. I am constantly grateful for these dear friends. They knew me when. We went through junior high school together. We went through high school together. The raw-est times of our lives. (Or, maybe not the "raw-est" but there is certainly something very specific and very unforgettable about the "raw-ness" of early puberty. It is good to have friends who remember you from that time, and who also have segued with you into adulthood.) There they were, and there I was.

This kind of friendship is rarer than the most precious jewel.

So basically - we did a bit of grocery shopping, for the snacks, for the wine, came home, got into our pajamas, and talked the night away. (Translation ... until 11 pm when we all got sleepy at the same moment, and fell asleep instantly). Sadly, there were no Mad Libs because the line at Barnes and Noble was about 3 miles long. But that didn't matter. We don't need to "entertain" each other. We just can BE.

Mere showed us (in a mildly drunken way) some of the tips from her self-defense class. Using Beth as a model. Beth, in effect, became the rapist, or the murderer. And Mere was SUCH a ninja bad-ass! Elbowing Beth in the nose, karate-chopping her in the back, kneeing her in the "balls" - all as Beth was shrieking and panicking - and all as I was laughing my ass off and taking photos of the entire event. It was hysterical.

I did an imitation of Rory-the-Irish-Man trying to tiptoe quietly through the foyer, and then falling flat on his ass. Where he landed in a position that made him look like he was doing a gymnastics floor exercise. Or I call it the "frozen on the pommel horse" moment. One of the funniest falls I have ever seen in my life. And did I sympathize with him? Did I go to help him up? No. I hissed at him, "Jesus ... shut the fuck up!" Tears of laughter streaming down Beth and Mere's faces as I struggled to get myself into the messed-up position Rory landed in. "No, wait, his leg was back like this ... and then the other leg was ..."

We also went up to my roof (a ritual I make every visitor I have go through) to see the spectacular view. The entire island of Manhattan unfolding across the river, glimmering sparkling, the Chrysler Building lit up, the Empire State Building lit up in red and green, the building with a gold top, the building like a champagne bottle ... The SCOPE, the PERSPECTIVE ... it is certainly something to take your breath away.

But other than Union Square and the roof?

We were in our pajamas. Chilling out. Talking about our lives, our issues, whatever it is each of us are struggling with right now - sharing, laughing, talking. Great stuff.

Next time I will stock up on Mad Libs, because truly: there is nothing funnier than hanging out with old old friends and breaking out the Mad Libs.

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December 7, 2004

The relief of openly being a jackass

Quotes from emails to my friend David in the past week

From: Red
To: David

... Have I mentioned to you before how dense I am, and how I have no idea what is up with me at any given moment? I can tell you in detail about Cary Grant's childhood, but if you say, "Why are you upset?" I will give you a blank look like "What the fuck are you talking about?"

From: Red
To: David

... I have had this huge soul-growth week and I feel like a complete and utter jackass. But it's good. It's good to just openly be a jackass, as opposed to trying to be cool and "okay with everything", and "Yeah, whatever, man, it's cool, it's cool." Well, you know what? IT'S NOT COOL! What a fucking relief.

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December 1, 2004

A true and amusing story

I was in college, and doing a show. There was a cast party happening at my friend David's house (you all may remember him as a guest-blogger here). David lived with some of his frat buddies at a house in the woods. It was Party Central, as you can imagine. I was getting a ride to the party with my friends Mitchell and Steven - at this point, none of us had been to David's house yet, and so - in the frenzy following the show, with basically the entire department wiping off their makeup, changing costumes, racing about, the post-show adrenaline, etc., not to mention the thrill of going to a PARTY - David gave us directions. Steven, Mitchell and I listened faithfully.

And then we set out into the woods.

This story has a bit of a Deliverance aspect to it, although the Deliverance was all in our minds.

Our college was surrounded by forest and turf farms. Dark winding country roads, random dark lakes, very easy to get lost. Which is what we promptly did. There are no street lamps, we were driving around through a wooded neighborhood, we were stopping the car to LISTEN to the wooded silence, hoping that we could hear the mayhem of the party and follow the audio clues ... No luck.

Finally, we thought we knew where we were going - and Steven realized he needed to turn around. We all were itching with impatience to get to the party. We were in college. We were theatre geeks. You get the drift.

So Steven randomly pulled into a driveway to turn around.

And here is what ALL THREE OF US SAW:

A small white house, one-story. On the front of it hung an enormous thick black cross. And there was a sign on the front lawn, revealed in our headlights, that said: "SACRIFICIAL LAMB."

Needless to say, we all freaked out. Pandemonium ensued.

"Holy shit, turn the car around..."
"Get the fuck out of here ... "
"Steven, back up, back up, Sacrifical Lamb, holy shit...."
"DRIVE, STEVEN, DRIVE!"

Steven frantically peeled out of the terrifying driveway and we tore off, badly shaken up. We talked amongst ourselves.

"Did we all just see that?"
"What WAS that??"

Finally, we find the party. Which is now barreling along at full throttle.

We come into the party and immediately regale everybody with the scary little white house, the big black cross, the terrifying sign of SACRIFICAL LAMB.

David came over. Confused. "What house? Where?"

We described where, feverishly.

He thought a bit, and then the light dawned. "Guys, a doctor lives in that house. He has an office in his house - and the sign said ARTIFICIAL LIMBS not SACRIFICAL LAMB, Jesus Christ!!"

We kept protesting: "But we all saw it! We did! We did!"

"And what about the black cross??"

The black cross turns out to be some kind of apparatus which goes up to his satellite dish on the top of a house, and it just LOOKED like a huge cross.

Mitchell, Steven and I felt like complete jackasses, and yet we also kept reassuring ourselves of our collective sanity. "I know I saw the words Sacrificial Lamb, didn't you?" "I totally saw the words Sacrificial Lamb, totally..." "No doubt. No doubt."

Nodding at each other as we stood by the keg, guzzling cups of beer.

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November 13, 2004

Why I love my friend David

... or one of the reasons:

He lets me drunkenly explain to him the intricacies of the Second Constitutional Congress and doesn't appear to get bored or annoyed. On the contrary, he appears to egg me on. He appears to appreciate it, and appreciate me. I blab on, I have hand gestures, I get excited, I leap around in chronology ...

"And so then ... James Madison ... who had been kind of Jefferson's protege and stuff ... so anyway, THEN ... Madison hooks up with Hamilton and Jay ... to kind of put forth the arguments of the Constitution to the public ... But then later..."

I mean, that's pretty much what goes on.

So yes. I babbled at my friend David last night about the Second Constitutional Congress, at a bar in Hoboken. The Second Constitutional Congress babble then morphed into a discussion about the Federalist Papers. # 10 in particular. Which then morphed into a discussion about John Adams' notorious "sedition act". Which then somehow morphed into a discussion about Foulke's underhanded throw to first base - the throw that changed ALL OF OUR LIVES. Which then morphed into a discussion about the forgotten genius of William Holden. Somehow ... all of this came directly from the Second Constitutional Congress. All good things do, I suppose.

Thank you, David. For being a good friend, a good listener, great company.

And for David and I?

All conversations lead to Foulke's underhand toss to first base. No matter where we start out ... that is still where we always end up.

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October 26, 2004

Before

And here I am, with one of my college boyfriends at a Halloween party.

He is a nerd. (No shit. LOOK at that costume. Crikey.)

And I am a blind dumb French beggar. (Uh ... what, Sheila?) The sign around my neck says "J'ai faim".

I'm insane. Anyway - here we are at the beginning of the party. The post below this one shows us nearing the end of the party.

beggar.jpg

Posted by sheila Permalink

After

And here is the "After" shot.

We are much later into the evening now, of course ... Er ...

beggar2.jpg


'Nuff said.

Posted by sheila Permalink

Halloween -

This photo needs a bit of set-up, but it might be my favorite of all of them.

It's two of my best friends in the world - Mitchell and Jackie.

Mitchell and Jackie came as Jackie's grandparents, Chester and Millie, who had been married for 60 years or something like that. Both of them had very distinctive ways of walking, talking, being. Jackie adored them. When one of them passed away, the other one followed a couple of months later. It was that kind of relationship.

So this was Jackie and Mitchell's tribute to Chester and Millie.

There is so much about this photo that I find hilarious. I look at it - and I can't even really LAUGH.

It's like - these are NOT my friends. They are "Chester and Millie". The expression in Jackie's eyes ... in Mitchell's ... they are CHANNELING those 2 people.

chester.jpg

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Halloween ...

Mitchell and I, if we are geographically near to one another, like to choose costumes that "go" together for Halloween. For example, the one below. He is Andy Warhol, and I am Edie Sedgwick - Warhol's siver-haired "it" girl for about 2 seconds. So obscure, I know - but Mitchell and I were obsessed with "Edie and Andy".

LOOK AT THE EXPRESSION on Mitchell's face. So SUPERIOR - it just makes me LAUGH. We picked up those ridiculous glasses for you, along with my false eyelashes, at CVS, as I recall.

Heh heh. We were "in character" for about half an hour, and then we just had to drop the pose. It was too tiresome!

edie.jpg


That party was insane. I had it at my place. This was the party where my friend Beth, infamously, became "an angry clown".

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This Halloween costume ...

... was a job for two. It was just at the time of the Woody Allen - Soon Yi brou-haha, and so Mitchell and I went to a Halloween party dressed as Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. There are