This glamour shot pretty much encapsulates Week 2. Gritty shoes, pavement ahead, legs battered and dry, but ankles pretty much restored to their normal size. I put in a lot of miles this week, metaphoric and literal. And it wasn’t all pretty.

After boasting about my successful transfer to my new computer, I went to bed last Saturday night, and awoke late Sunday morning to greet my shiny, new $2,500 brick. Not because of any failure of the new computer, but due to the misfirings of the old “hard drive,” AKA my noggin, chip-off-the-old block, sixty-ish brain. A lot of new passwords go into a new computer set up and the next time I transfer, I will be writing them down on a pad at my side.

I started off confidently enough, typing into the slot beneath the coquettish picture of me at my desk some ten years ago that I can’t discard because it somehow captures both me and my mother perfectly.

The insouciant little slot shook its head back at me. I tried again, this time, a little less confidently. This time, the little snot shook its head back at me and stuck out its tongue.

Okay, I know the drill. I’ll just reset it using my Apple ID. Clickety clack.

Spinning orb of death. Not familiar enough yet with my new device to know that I can see the wifi networks even without logging in, I take the ominous words “Server not available” at much more than its face value. I’m now beginning to tear up, trying to remember, scrunching up my nose with pursed lips indicating a toxic rendition of frustration and concentration. Usually I’m quite good with passwords….

I don’t mean to bore you with this little tale. After I’d found the wifi symbol up in the corner and realized my computer was working really hard to find the wifi hotspot in my bedroom instead of the main modem across the room, I did manage to set up a new password and gain access to the computer realm again.

With my story, I hoped instead, to spark a glimmer of recognition, a handshake across the abyss of the digital tourist wasteland to find you, perhaps a comrade once in digital password desperation. Who amongst us doesn’t have a tattered excel printout or our passwords (at best five generations old) tacked to the bulletin boards near our desks? I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. We all know better than that.

When I mentioned my trauma to my Dad, he said “We’re all members of the lost password club.” Somehow, this didn’t comfort me as he is nearly 30 years my senior.

That was Sunday.

Spotted my smiley friend on the dam just this week after passing them many many times and not seeing them.

I have to say the rest of the week went pretty well. The road through more Zoom classes, some ups and downs, some sandy terrain and the occasional slippery slope. Just the average academician-in-Fall-2020’s schedule:

  • Debriefing Zoom meetings about previous Zoom meetings
  • Zoom meetings to discuss protocol for scheduling and running future Zoom meetings
  • Training Zoom meetings
  • Title IX Appeal Panel Zoom meetings
  • Emergency Operation Center Zoom Meetings
  • Production Zoom Meetings
  • Zoom casting finalizations
  • Zoom staff meetings

You get the idea. I think the only non-zoom thing I did was go take a COVID test and that was decidedly visceral. In general, we’re all just zooming around everywhere. I hope the CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, really appreciates how avidly we are using his platform. Do you suppose it’s like key rings? That the higher you rise in an organization, the fewer keys you have on your key ring? Following that logic in the Zoom Stratosphere, surely the CEO must have to attend fewer Zoom meetings? Somehow, in the midst of this pandemic, I doubt it, but there’s something comforting about thinking that Eric is sitting on the deck of his house, feet up on a comfy ottoman, looking over the infinity pool and sipping an ice tea, not a computer in sight.

In preparation for my classes next week, I set up my “office” outside because it was a truly beautiful day here in Los Angeles. While sitting out there, I realized one of the hummingbird feeders was empty, so I set up the formula on the stove, popped my headphones back into my ears, listening to music on my computer, set the timer on my phone to remind me in eight minutes to go turn it off. You see where this is going. About an hour later, feeling peckish, I opened the slider and went into the apartment to discover it filled with white, cloyingly sweet smoke, the pan filled with that ash that happens when it boils down into oblivion. Not that I’ve ever seen or smelled that smell before…

At this point, gentle reader, I suspect you may be having some concerns about my mental state. I just want to take this opportunity to assure you that I’m no more unhinged or less unhinged than you are. I’m just sharing it unvarnished, here, rather than on social media, where it might have looked like this.

In the GESM class next week, I get to introduce the students to the role of the theatrical director, as we discuss the play, “The White Plague,” a play written in 1937 by Karel 🏹Capek. (I know he’s spiraling in his grave because I didn’t have the proper Grapheme Č, so I’ve adorned it with a crossbow as penance). See what I did there?

In preparation, I reviewed a keynote speech given by Director Anne Bogart two years ago at The Actors Theatre of Louisville where she had been asked to write a “Call to Action” by former Artistic Director Les Waters. In her inimitable witty, self-deprecating closet-genius style, she bares the director’s process while describing being asked to write such a daunting keynote. She shows rather than tells each step: the defining of the assignment, the emotional connection with the task, the discarding the job completely, the research phase, the careful explanation of the four steps that are necessary for one to make an effective call to action. Each of the Command Verbs she listed she iced with a personal flourish, a humbly offered theatre story. I encourage you to listen to the entire 47 minutes, but she captured my attention right at the start with the concept of being hypnotized by middle distance. That we neither get close enough to see the details, nor far enough to appreciate the overview. While we are ricocheting between zoom meetings, we lose sight of our bodies, our breath, our mordant sense of humor, the hummingbird food flaming on the stove, the sound of a bird’s chirp in our ear which in other times might have pulled our gaze out the window, but now, in our enslaved middle distance doesn’t.

The other night, I “stopped in” to observe and participate in one of our Production Exercise groups, Team Vote, and happily stumbled on their sharing art projects. Each student had created a personal work to examine the topic of Voter Suppression. The Project Manager shared first; she’d created a puzzle of the state of California, broken into voting district puzzle pieces, each marked red or blue, with cross hatching or concentric spiraling circles so that when the state’s voting puzzle was assembled, it beautifully rendered the populations in colorful and arbitrary shapes to illustrate gerrymandering. She had obviously not succumbed to the middle distance, but had gone in deeply, purposefully, and creatively. Other projects presented were equally personal, a collage illustrating the history of voting, coupled with a poem challenging the sincerity of the phrase “We the People” given the historic obstacles to non-white voters. Some were more agitprop than others, but all taking aim at the topic from a place other than the middle distance.

Tomorrow, I welcome my oldest brother and his wife to the state of California. I’m excited that they will be Angelenos soon, as we head into Fall 2020, Week 3.

See you on the trail this week!

6 thoughts

  1. Hi Els, I just forwarded this lovely piece to my friend Rachel who lives in New York City and teaches at Rutgers. She and her husband hied off to their summer home in Vermont as soon as they could (early April) and both finished up their classes via Zoom (he teaches at Ramapo College of New Jersey – not familiar to me). But I know Rachel has gotten very, very tired of Zoom so I thought she might appreciate your work here. And can I ever relate to the 8 minute boil gone awry. I tell myself, oh, I’ll just go fold the laundry and when I get back from the garage, it will be done (whatever it is). You know how that goes. Stay well – love your writing! Cindy Cindy Young Cell (310) 210-1132

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