Thursday, March 26, 2009

Off to see Spain

I'm just going to see a part of Spain, mostly Madrid, Segovia and Andalucia (Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, Ronda). I was a nervous wreck yesterday about going at a time when I don't have a job, my dog Lucy is old (14), life feels so unsettled, and traveling makes me nervous.

On the other hand, what the hell. As my friend Mona said yesterday, with everyone she knows who is dealing with life threatening illnesses, we might as well go when we can and enjoy it.

And my friend Maria said so succinctly: "Put fun on the list!"

So I'm off to have fun. And I hope you can too, wherever you are. Take some time for fun. I'll write from Spain, in between tapas.

One more thing...I went to see my acupuncturist, Dr. Adriano Borgna, to see if he could help me with my back injury. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he practically cured it. It's not completely gone, but I can hardly feel any discomfort or pain. He opened up the chi, energy, and I feel good. I guess there's a reason it's been around for something like a thousand years, right?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

So far today

I woke up, drank my cup of coffee, realized that my back is still killing me from my dancing experience this past weekend (where I tried to show that a fifty something woman could have starred in "Flashdance") - and then I took my dogs out for their walk.

And that's when I watched my cute little Lola fall down a long flight of stairs. Lola has arthritis and she has been having a slightly difficult time for the past few weeks going down the stairs. Any smart person would always have her on the leash so if she did start to fall, she wouldn't go too far. But I am not a smart person, especially at 8 am. I was a sleepy person who wasn't really functioning.

Lola looked completely shaken up, her right paw was obviously hurting her, so I carried her most of the walk and then waited until the vet's office opened. They said to bring her in. (Naturally.) An hour and a half later, two x-rays, a thorough examination to the tune of $350 and some medication, she thankfully has no internal injuries or broken bones, just a sore leg.

My back is worse. I've never really had a bad back before, this is new to me. I'm getting on a plane in two days to go to Spain, leaving my very old, incontinent Lucy and my slightly injured Lola with Zoe, my newly turned 21 year-old. Pray for us.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The creative dynamic

This past weekend, from Friday night through all day Saturday and all day Sunday, I participated in a workshop called "The Creative Dynamic." The workshop was given at the TAI Group (formerly The Actors' Institute) and has been around in different forms for approximately twenty years.

It began as a workshop for actors, teaching them how to connect more effectively with audiences and it became extremely popular as actors told friends who had all different kinds of jobs. I think I talked about this before - anyway, there were ten participants and a number of TAI trainers also in the room. There were a few actors and musicians, a business affairs person, a Yoga teacher, a corporate trainer who does similar trainings herself but came to TAI to experience their techniques. She was blown away. She was also seven months pregnant and I think she was happy to be there and not at home with her two year-old. There was also a college president. So, it was a mixed group with varied experience performing in front of audiences.

We all brought in something to "perform" - a song, a poem (the college president spoke in both Aztec and English), several speeches (FDR, Harvey Milk and a Tony Kushner speech), a monologue by Neil LaBute from "Fat Pig." I brought in the first five minutes of my monologue. Each person performed and then the leader, Gifford Booth, came up with some way to change the dynamic of the performance and to have the performer connect more intimately with the audience. I can't really explain it - I can just tell you that it worked every time. And then everyone in the audience wrote down thoughts about the performances (most of them extremely positive) which we all took home. I'm going to have my comments laminated and wear them around my neck every day of my life, since I don't seem to have much self-confidence of my own.

During the weekend, we also did acting exercises and danced. We danced in a group and one of the leaders would call out our name to lead. When it was my turn to lead, I did something so energetic that I hurt my back. Serves me right.

Anyway - the inner child in me had a joyous, fantastic and challenging time this weekend and I have to say that I pretty much loved every minute of it.

So, there will be no complaining out of me tonight. (Except it's still cold out. I couldn't resist. Sorry!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

The daughter goes to camp...Sharon Olds

Tomorrow is Zoe's 21st birthday. She's in San Francisco for the week to celebrate with her friends. I was reading some poetry and I found this poem, which seemed so fitting:

The Daughter Goes to Camp

In the taxi alone, home from the airport,
I could not believe you were gone. My palm kept
creeping over the smooth plastic
to find your strong meaty little hand and
squeeze it, find your narrow thigh in the
noble ribbing of the corduroy,
straight and regular as anything in nature, to
find the slack cool cheek of a
child in the heat of a summer morning -
nothing, nothing, waves of bawling
hitting me in hot flashes like some
change of life, some boiling wave
rising in me toward your body, toward
where it should have been on the seat, your
brow curved like a cereal bowl, your
eyes dark with massed crystals like the
magnified scales of a butterfly's wing, the
delicate feelers of your limp hair,
floods of blood rising in my face as I
tried to reassemble the hot
gritty molecules in the car, to
make you appear like a holograph
on the back seat, pull you out of nothing
as I once did -- but you were really gone,
the cab glossy as a slit caul out of
which you had slipped, the air glittering
electric with escape as it does in the room at birth.

Sharon Olds

It's about time

God, finally a President who is doing everything we've been wishing for. Today's headlines from the NY Times regarding the insurance giant AIG:

The president said that he has instructed Timothy F. Geithner to “pursue every single legal avenue” to block bonuses to the ailing insurer’s executives.

It's about time. Next I'm waiting for the executives who mismanaged their companies and lost millions of dollars to give back their bonuses and if they are guilty of misconduct, to go to jail.

It could happen.


I met Bob in Fort Greene Park two summers ago. We walked our dogs every morning around the same time and often chatted about life, politics, our dogs. This morning I found out that he recently died.

Bob was a tall, very thin, soft-spoken, gentle African American man. I would say he was in his late 60's. He had a dog named Jasper, a big old Irish Setter, who had terrible allergies in the summer. Bob and Jasper were often sitting under one of the old oak trees and I would stop by with Lucy and Lola for a long chat every morning. I never knew his last name. I knew that he had a wife who'd been sick and he visited her in the hospital every day, brought her food and whatever she needed. When she recovered, he often drove her to and from work. He told me that he'd been a therapist. I found out today, when I asked a few of the men in the park if they'd seen Bob lately, that not only had he died, but that he'd also been a very respected saxophone player. They told me that he would often come to the park in the afternoon and play his saxophone. I'm sorry I never heard him play.

They said he was watching some kind of game on television with a friend and the friend said, "Bob, did you see that play? Wasn't that amazing?" Bob didn't respond. He probably had a massive heart attack or stroke.

His friend took Jasper.

Once, when I was crossing the street with the dogs and was on the phone to Zoe, a car suddenly started backing up. I didn't notice it. Bob jumped out of his car and pulled me out of the way. I really can't believe that he's gone.

Walking in the park with the dogs this summer isn't going to be the same.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No whining today

Since I frequently use these posts as a way of releasing some of my anxiety, I want to share that I had a really great day yesterday. I've been going to a training workshop at The Actors' Insitute every Tuesday afternoon from 3-6 pm. They have a program for people who are becoming trainers in public speaking, group dynamics, etc. It started as a workshop for actors and then expanded into all kinds of professions. Many of the trainers are actors and directors, but not all of them. Some have no performance experience, but so far most of the ones I've met have worked in theater.

Anyway, yesterday I suspected that I would have to be a guinea pig for one of the coaches in training and I was nervous. I wanted to bring in something written by someone else (like Chris Durang) but the friend who brought me into TAI suggested I use my own writing. I brought in the first five minutes of my monologue and I was praying I wouldn't be called on...and of course, I was.

I love that some of the things we are nervous about are often the things we get the most pleasure out of accomplishing. It was exciting and fun and scary -- and I learned about communicating with the audience in a way I had never experienced before. And I've got a lot more to learn.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Update from the Bahamas

Okay, I'm not in the Bahamas, but if you recall my last post was written four days ago and the temperature was in the teens and felt like -2 and today the temperature is somewhere around 70 degrees. Fort Greene Park is filled with tennis players, frisbee players, kids, dogs, people reading books and lying on the grass. It's practically the first day of spring!

Anyway, so in addition to the weather update, I did not have to perform the opening of my monologue the other day, which was great. Two other speakers performed - one did a soliloquy from Hamlet and someone else read Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech - so I was quite happy to watch two excellent actors get coached.

This morning I woke up in a pretty terrible mood and I always wish that I was the kind of person who wasn't depressed so much of the time. I could go back on an anti-depressant, but I'd prefer not to, so I guess I have to deal with the ups and downs. I tried meditation (not medication) this morning and that didn't help. So once again I decided to turn to Pema Chodron and I opened up "The Places That Scare You." I can't seem to find what I read this morning, but it definitely lifted me up and after that I drank a big cup of coffee (my antidepressant) and felt better. This is a difficult time to be optimistic, though I can say that I am extremely glad that we have Obama in the White House and I won't mention the former occupants, because that just makes me really mad.

And on Monday, President Obama is going to dismiss the limits on stem cell research that the former occupant of the White House put into effect and that alone is something to be cheerful about.

Also - I just started reading "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" and so far it's really good, so I have to get back to that. I hope wherever you are, that it's at least seventy degrees.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Update from the arctic

Okay, it's not the arctic, but if you've read this blog you know I have a tendency to exaggerate. (And make many typos.) This morning, when I took the dogs out to the park for a walk it was about 15 degrees but felt like -2 (according to We just have to get through today (high 25 degrees) and tomorrow will practically balmy. (35 degrees.)

Anyway, I wanted to give an update on my two friends L and O. L went to Gilda's Club yesterday after a harrowing weekend of feeling terrible from chemo. She finally decided it was time to go back to get support. Years ago, the first time she was diagnosed with cancer, she'd been a member of a group there and loved it. But she hadn't been ready to go back until yesterday. After spending a few hours, talking to people, she said felt much better and will be joining a group that meets weekly.

And my friend O had laproscopic surgery yesterday and no cancer was found!

So - that's very good news.

Steve is in Spain and his photography show has been postponed from March to September. I'm going to meet him there in a few weeks and that will be my first trip to Spain!

Today I'm going to a performance workshop and I may have to get up and do the first few minutes of my monologue. I'll let you know how it goes. I have so much performance anxiety and this workshop teaches people how to cope with that and also how to better communicate with the audience. Scary.

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's a freakin' blizzard out there

Well, not really, but the reason I love snow so much is that: a) it's dramatic, b) out of our control and c) it brings back the memories of snow days and no school.

I'm going to look out the window, watch the snow and think about two of my friends, L and O, who are dealing with difficult illnesses right now. I'm sending them both love and prayers and it would be great if you would too.

And if there's snow where you live, I hope you can enjoy it.