Labor Day Labor of Love – Happy New Year

At about 11:30 Am on Christmas Eve day, the phone rang and the Crate and Barrel delivery folks told me that our final piece of the sofa would be arriving on Friday, December 27th between 2:30 and 4:30PM.
“Great! And will they be able to take away the loaner that we have here then?”

Didn’t know about the loaner, she told me. You will need to call your contact at the store to make sure there is a note in the system about the couch that needed to be picked up.

I called Crate and Barrel on Christmas Eve day to thank Diongo for arranging for the armless loveseat solution. Better an armless loveseat than a loveless armchair, right? The phone was picked up by a chipper sales woman. “Hi, is Diongo, there, please?”

“He’s out to lunch but should be back shortly.”

He? Wait, beat beat, while my brain did a 180. “When do you expect him back?”

“He should be here by 12:00.”

“Great, I will call back later to speak with him. Thank you!”

Several hours later, I was reassured by Diongo that the spare couch piece would be taken away by the delivery team on Friday.

We returned from the airport where I picked up my Dad and his wife, and we came back to the apartment where they looked at the odd mishmash of sofa pieces and said, “It doesn’t look that bad.”

And it didn’t. we had a lovely three day visit and spent many happy moments talking and napping and watching the Lakers on the loaner sofa. And this morning I drove them off to the airport and came home to nap on the chaise.

Just now, David and Stephen, the white glove team from Crate and Barrel delivered the apartment sofa section that meets with the chaise to form the sectional sofa for which the quest began last September 1st. Ahhhhhhhh. So new and so comfortable; so much more than the Living Spaces couch we have given to our friends and which I can’t think about without the annoying advertising jingle going through my head. Whoever wrote that jingle should be forced to listen to it incessantly as punishment for their creative talents. Probably they do – it is just the kind of ear worm that burrows into your brain and sits tight until it is shoved aside by an equally inane ditty.

I’m ready for my Crate and Barrel ditty contest now.  But first maybe a nap on my new chaise…..

Christmas Eve

I just returned from a magical Christmas eve party – old friends, new friends, family members, food, singing Christmas carols until I no longer had the breath to sing. I was reminded of how fortunate I truly am to be surrounded by such loving friends and colleagues. Tomorrow we will open gifts and eat good food and share remembrances of Christmas past. Again, I am filled with the knowledge that each passing year is richer for being able to do the work I love with people who share the same passion and commitment to the theatre and to living life fully. Embracing the humanity of it.

Hope your Christmas is as special.

I received a facebook post this week from a high school friend who said we should remember that Christmas isn’t happy for everyone – that the stresses of family, job insecurities, poor health and other obstacles mar their enjoyment and that we should share the post by cutting and pasting it. As though reading that didn’t make me stop and think about those people – I needed to copy it and spread it around?

The ups and downs that we face in our lives are what make us alive. The good and bad days  remind us that we are only here for a brief time and it isn’t those events that make us who we are, but the way we see and react to them. That’s what makes it possible for me to enjoy the ridiculousness of the couch debacle this week. It really sucked and made me miserable early in the week, but  I took extra enjoyment from writing about it and sharing it with my friends. It has receded in my rear view mirror even before being completely resolved, like the speed bumps in my old neighborhood. Annoying, but just a part of the drive home.

Tonight, with the echos of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in my heart, I know that there will be future challenges far exceeding the couch story. And I will tackle them one at a time, learning a bit more about how this funny life business works in the meantime.

Merry Christmas!

Labor Day Labor of Love – The Christmas Catastrophe

The events of recent days have made me realize that my blog, subtitled “Intentional living in the theatre and beyond” is endowed with actual fate-bending powers. I know that sounds ridiculous, but listen to the next installment of the elusive couch. First, I just have to say that it boggles my mind that in 2014, in the United States, and in Los Angeles, that one would not be able to acquire a simple sectional sofa in four month’s time. Right? Crazy!

As promised by Jason, the kindly Crate and Barrel salesman,  I received the call on Wednesday, December 18th to schedule delivery of my couch. I was meeting with one of my stage management students when the phone rang. I had been waiting for the call about the delivery of the sofa, so when I saw the unfamiliar San Pedro number come up on my cell, I snatched it from the top of my paper-encrusted desk and excused myself to my student.

“Hello,” came the cheery voice. “This is name-inaudible-due-to-my-excitement from Crate and Barrel to let you know the delivery window for your couch.” I was so excited that all I heard was “Crate and Barrel.” “Your couch,” she crooned, “will arrive on Friday afternoon between 1:30 and 3:30PM. Are you still able to take delivery then? They are loading the truck and want to make sure you can still accept the delivery at that time.”

“Yes, of course,” I replied happiness burbling in my chest cavity. “Thank you so much!” I hung up the phone and resumed the meeting with my student. After he left, I called home and gave my husband the good news.

All was happiness and light.

Cut to Thursday afternoon. The phone rang again, another unfamiliar number. A little more warily, I picked up the phone only to hear a young woman say, “Hello, this is Diongo from Crate and Barrel.” Uh oh. This cannot be good.

“I’m sorry to inform you that only one portion of your couch made it onto the truck from our Northern California facility, so tomorrow, you will only be receiving the chaise portion of your sofa order. The earliest date that the missing sofa piece can be delivered is December 27th. I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience.”

I was stupified. I have to say that generally because of what I do for a living – production manage multiple shows a year, I usually receive difficult news with a pretty accepting demeanor. However, consider what I was up against on this couch set back:

1) We had ordered the couch on Sept. 1. Granted this is another vendor, but now I’m being told I won’t have the couch til Dec. 27th.

2) I am about to have 9 uninterrupted days off from work. All I want in the world is to sit down and put my feet up next to my husband.

3) My 83-year-old father is on his way from DC with his wife to spend Christmas with us. We now have 3 people over 80 years old and only two marginally comfortable chairs.

4) I have given my old couch away. That night, my colleague Hannah and her husband Patrick and two kids were coming over for dinner and to take the old couch away. Sort of like a barn-raising but in reverse. I cannot change the plan as this is the second time I’ve arranged the dinner and couch take-away plan. I do not want to disappoint them.

“I’m sorry, can you please repeat your name to me?”

“Djongo.”

“Diongo, this is completely unacceptable. I have no couch and I have family coming for Christmas. How could this have happened? Can you arrange for a loaner sofa until mine arrives? I really do not have anything for my family to sit on.”

“Let me see what I can do. It will take me a little while to figure out something, so please bear with me.”

By now, I am babbling to her about how I have been through this terrible ordeal with another company who didn’t provide the couch and we had to cancel, blah blah blah, all the while thinking – she doesn’t care. Stop talking. She is now repeating that the earliest date she can deliver the other half of the sofa is December 27th, which is the day my father and his wife leave.

That’s when it hits me – my blog has supernatural powers. It has awakened in the cosmos a certain schadenfreude about the happy improvement plan I have undertaken in my living room. “No, she can’t get her sofa before Christmas! That would be too easy! Let’s see just how much we can challenge her and see what she’s made of.”

After hanging up with Djongo, I finished work and took the bus home. Bursting through the door of the apartment, I barely spoke to my husband, but strode to the side table, where I pulled out the Crate and Barrel folder with the receipt for the sofa. Name of salesperson…… Ah, Jason. That’s what I needed. I snatched up the phone and dialed the number for the store, so I could give Jason a piece of my mind. Jason, who had promised that we would get our sofa by Christmas. Jason, to whom I had explained the whole painful West Elm story, whom I had befriended with my misery, who had calmly, confidently  and professionally sold us the sofa that would be in our home before Christmas. Jason, who was about to hear from me…The phone rang once, then twice, then:
“Hello, Crate and Barrel, this is Diongo speaking. How can I help you?”

All the petulant impetus for my call was instantly deflated. I have to tell you, if I were a furniture store manager, I would hire Diongo to be my customer service rep in a heartbeat.  She has a reasonable, pleasant demeanor. She thinks well on her feet. When I asked to speak with Jason, she said, “May I tell him who’s calling?” Sheepishly, I said my name and reminded her that we had spoken earlier. I told her “I wanted to speak with Jason because he promised me we would have our sofa and we won’t now have it before Christmas.” Patiently, she repeated what she said she was working on – finding a loaner or close out sofa we could use until our real one arrived on the 27th. “I’m happy to put you through to Jason if you’d like, but after the transaction leaves the seller, it’s really all about the delivery department and the seller doesn’t know what’s happening. At this point, I will be working to reach a solution on this.  Beat of silence as I flagellated my inner mean girl for wanting to let Jason have it. “No, I guess you will be the one who can help us straighten this out, so I don’t need to talk with Jason after all. Thanks, Diongo.”

She continued. “I will call you back later to let you know how my search is going.”

And she did. The manager had not approved the loaner, but she was looking for the actual item to get it scheduled before the 25th. I have faith in Diongo.

In the meantime, the chaise arrived today. I am writing this while sitting on it. It is paired awkwardly with one of the small veronica taper leg chairs from West Elm. It faces the TV. My husband took the maiden nap on it this afternoon.  And I just got off the phone with Diongo, who has arranged for delivery of an armless loveseat from the store in a complimentary color to our new chaise so that we all have a place to sit for Christmas.

I hesitate to tell my fate-bending blog of my intentions lest she throw another wrench into the works. But I think it’s going to be all right.

The Jewelry Box

I have on my dresser a battered green leather jewelry box. It is filled with some very old jewelry, as well as with the many beautiful gifts that my husband has given to me over the past thirty years.

The Jewelry box

If you were to see the box, you would ask yourself – Why has no one replaced this battered old thing? Originally a deep hunter green leather it sports an elaborate but delicate tooled gold border around the top and sides of the box. Once it was lockable; the keyhole well worn on the front of the box. Now it doesn’t even close, due to its largess of riches. Inside, there is a green silk lining and a wooden inset which fits perfectly inside and has a long horizontal ring tray and two square receptacles which hold a collection of jewelry. Two square velvet pillows crimped around the edges provide real estate for broaches to be pinned on them.

The most notable thing about its disrepair, however, is the top of the box, which sports two, continent-shaped holes in the green leather. These holes, revealing the buff colored cardboard under the leather, the left the shape of Australia, the right the shape of Africa, with a bite out of the horn. Around these continents in the remaining sea of green are a series of systematic scratches in the leather.

These scratches denote hours upon hours of adolescent phone calls from my parents’ bedroom in my childhood house in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. We had two telephones in our modest colonial house: one black rotary dial phone which rested on the hefty wooden desk in the corner of the den, and one princess phone on the bedside table of our parent’s upstairs bedroom. Here is where I would take my phone calls, bent at the waist, my elbows resting on my mother’s bureau, as I chatted idly with my girl friends, while digging industriously into the top of the leather jewelry box with an open safety pin taken from the dish on the top of the bureau.

Who can say why a normally responsible eleven or twelve-year-old girl would consciously destroy her mother’s jewelry box? As I recall, I was generally not very nice to my mother at that time – surly would describe my attitude in general, but I don’t think it was anger at my mother that drove me to tattoo the top of her jewelry box.

Things were getting rocky between my parents around then, and perhaps I went into their bedroom to take the calls because I thought I would find out why – frequently I would sneak into the room when I knew one of my brothers was on the phone with a girl; breathlessly, I would listen as they cooed at each other, titillated by the endless expressions of love between them and hungry to experience whatever that special bond between boys and girls was. I would giggle with my friends Lisa and Pixie on the phone and spend long moments discussing the perceived wrongs that one of us had experienced in school that day. There was something comforting about digging away at the box – probably if I were an adolescent today, I would be digging away at my own arm – but then, there was some satisfaction in knowing that my mother would later return to her jewelry box and experience irritation that someone had mauled its delicate lid. What is so strange now in retrospect is that she never mentioned it to any of us – of course she knew that it was one of the children doing it – why did she never inquire?

All I know is that now I have the same jewelry box on my dresser – it is one of my favorite possessions. It’s beauty is scarred, like the childhood memories of my parents’ marriage. Its delicate cargo from the generation of my mother and my grandmother – the garnet heart on the gold chain with garnets evenly spaced up the chain – from a watch fob belonging to her father, which she thoughtfully made into a necklace for me because the garnet was my birthstone; my high school ring nestling in the horizontal tray in the back, along with some very old engraved wedding rings belonging to my grandmother’s parents; the blue enameled butterfly pin from my father’s mother which I still wear on spring days when I am buoyed by the expectations of summer; the tarnished silver thistle pin worn on my tartan elementary school uniform; the pink pearl necklace and drop earrings given to me by my husband on our 15th anniversary in a Pasadena eatery. So many treasures not the least of which are the memories of those hours spent idly marring the top of the box.

Butterfly, Harbinger of Summer

Labor Day Labor of Love – The Heartbreak and the Healing

The coffee table arrived, as promised on the 4th of September, and that weekend, I began the process of putting it together. As in all assemblies, I carefully counted out the parts to make sure I had everything before beginning. I had had to wait to begin the assembly because the box was hugely heavy and I was unable to lift it. So I had waited until Chris was home to open it for me and slide the heavy parts out onto the floor.

It was an awkward but not impossible task to screw the first two legs onto the table, but when I began to attach the cross bracing, I realized that one of the legs was bent at a 45 degree angle and would not assemble with the 1/2″ screws provided by West Elm.

I picked up the phone and had the first of about 20 calls to customer service at West Elm. The very helpful customer service rep told me, “No problem, we’ll send out a new set of legs for the table.” “Great,” I thought, “I will get those in a few days and begin the table.

About four days later, an entirely new table arrived, but our son was no longer at home, so I was stuck hauling the box so that I could pull out the legs, and leaving the heaviest component in the box. Shipped that back to West Elm, and voila, we had a coffee table by Sept. 15th.

Cut to October 28th when we received the two large boxes which contained the new blue ikat patterned Veronica chairs with the tapered chocolate legs. Easy peasy to assemble. We were half way to our new living room. According to the next customer rep I spoke with, we would be called to select a delivery date for our new sectional sofa on November 13th.

No call came on the 13th. I called them late in the day on the 13th. The customer rep seemed confused and unable to pinpoint the day of delivery. She passed me on to someone else, who very reluctantly told me that there had been a delay in the fabric that would delay our couch 2-4 weeks. This rep told me that the fabric was due in one week and he would call me no later than the following Monday to report on the arrival of the fabric.

Monday came and no call from Jamal. I called him and asked what was going on. The fabric was on an even longer delay and now was due on December 20th. Unacceptable.

Meanwhile I had been in email communication with Rachael, the lovely sales person who had sold us all the items in the store in West Hollywood. She was sending me discount coupons, etc. and when I told her we were having trouble with the couch, she determined that the fabric we had selected had been discontinued and would not be available. We could select another fabric if we wanted to. By now it was the friday after Thanksgiving, and we could see that no matter what West Elm did we wouldn’t have our furniture assembled by the holidays.

Shortly after this email exchange with Rachael, I had a third conversation with Jamal at the Furniture 800 number. He was loathe to tell me that the fabric had been discontinued forever, so I told him. I also told him that I was extremely disappointed in the customer service West Elm had provided or not provided and that I was canceling the order for the sofa. I think Jamal was relieved that the saga was closed. I know I was.

The next night, Jimmie and I went out to Crate and Barrel and purchased a couch. It is due to be here by Dec. 20th. So simple. But there’s a little bit of sadness almost like losing a new friend.

So, I guess my new bestie isn’t West Elm – sorry Rachael. And now I can let this all go. All the anger and disappointment and outrage. So toxic and so not useful.

Happy holidays!

Classic Stage Manager Nightmare

So last night I was trapped in what felt like an 8 hour stage manager nightmare. I apologize for using real people’s names, but that was what made it so horrifying. These names are people whom I really respect and have worked with successfully in the past, so my epic professional collapse in the dream made me wake in a sweat. And like truly great nightmares, that are detailed and fascinating, I repeatedly went back to sleep hoping it would continue, which it did.

I had been hired by Dan Ionazzi, the Production Manager of the Geffen Playhouse and a renowned Lighting Designer in his own right,  to stage manage a large opera production in an outdoor arena called the “Alhambra.” I have never been to the Alhambra in Granada, but my cursory search this morning on Wikipedia led me to a castle on a hill.

This was not at all what the theatre I had been hired to stage manage in was like. This was some multi-chambered outdoor arenas  grouped in a cluster of adjacent canyons, each requiring sure footing to make your way through them. Once inside, the tech table was perched in the middle of the “theatre” on a naturally formed table shaped stone. I arrived at dusk and made my way to the table. There were many people running around in headsets and I chatted with them, and eventually walked down to the table when Dan said they were ready to begin. My tech table was completely clean of anything. No headsets, no book, no pencils, which was when I realized I had not brought anything with me. 

I said, “Do you think I could get a headset at the tech table, please?” And one of the many headset clad people came over and said, “This isn’t the tech table. The tech table is down here,” guiding me further down into the center of the canyon, where, sure enough, there was a headset and a large contraption that looked like a boom mic on a goose lamp contraption – sort of what you would see clamped to the side of a drafting table, but with a microphone on it, not a lamp. I sat at the table (still horrified that I didn’t see my script there) and the assistant gently guided what I realized was their version of the “God” mic over my head so that it captured everything I said and broadcast it, booming, out into the canyon for all to hear. They all heard something like this: “Where is my fucking script?”

Meanwhile, I looked around and there were large tourist groups being led into the canyon at regular intervals by nun guides. Yes, nun guides. And groups of children in uniforms. I know, I should be lying down on the therapist’s couch to recount this tale.

So, without a script, not much was going to happen. I explained (over the god mic which I didn’t know how to turn off) that I would need a script to begin the tech. This flummoxed everyone as you might imagine. So, in order to save face, I said I needed to return to my car to get my script. Next thing, I was walking around for the next 2 hours or so through the similar but creepy adjacent canyons. I was hopelessly lost and had no idea how to get back to the “theatre”.

They all looked remarkably similar, but were devoid of actors carrying spears and children in uniforms being led by nuns. I could not for the life of me, find my tech.

Suddenly I stumbled across a headset clad assistant, who had clearly been sent out to look for me and who led me back to the theatre, which was literally at least a mile away through a tortured route of knee straining steps.

Additional nightmare factors to this tech – I didn’t know the play.  I never made the tech happen. When I returned to the table lo those two hours later, some of my students from SC were sitting there teching the show quite satisfactorily without me. As I climbed back up to my table, I saw Paulie Jenkins sitting in the front row of the theatre removing her headset for the night. When I got to the table, there were three copies of the script on the table – no, unfortunately, in my dream I couldn’t read or remember the title of the play – and inside each script was a note from the following people – Bryan Gale – hope you feel better soon, Els, along with a cue list of the light cues. (There were a lot of LDs on this show apparently). One from Dan Ionazzi with equally supportive language. The message I woke up with was “this is your last show.”

Like I said, classic stage manager nightmare…..Glad to be awake this morning sharing the horror with you.

Labor Day Labor of Love – The Backstory

I’m not sure what motivated my husband and I to redo our living room furniture this fall. There was a pervasive sense of optimism when we returned from our summer vacation to the Cape, the start of classes behind me, auditions for the eight fall shows relatively finished, cast lists posted on the callboard in the Drama Center. First hurdle behind.

And the fact that we embarked on this journey on our anniversary, Sept. 1, after 29 years of marriage, was a delight. Off we went to the newly discovered West Elm store in West Hollywood, where we worked with friendly Rachael to select the perfect couch, the perfect side chairs, a coffee table. I was like the proverbial pig in shit.

I like to renovate and redecorate my homes. I’ve always enjoyed it. The most extensive example was the complete gut and redesign of our kitchen in our last home. The least extensive is probably this foray into replacing our inherited furniture. Perhaps I am my grandfather’s daughter. John Marcy Coon, Princeton, Class of 1931, architect and business owner, John constructed the bridges spanning the highways and turnpikes throughout Pennsylvania. He also designed the Nesbitt Hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

He designed and built his home in the suburbs of Wilkes-Barre, set amidst the fields and forests of Shavertown, a beautiful white brick home with an elegant L shaped layout which cradled the back porch  overlooking an “infinity” field, the border of which w dripped off the back side of the hill on which the house was located. My grandfather rented the field to a local farmer to plant and harvest. Every fourth of July we would gather on the edge of this field and shoot off the fireworks assembled for our delight by Uncle Lou, my Mom’s sister’s husband – Roman candles, sparklers punctuated the night which was already aglow from the hundreds of fireflies which we chased and jarred with abandon.

John Coon was among the earliest adaptors of solar power, including a solar panel system over the kitchen back door, which powered  all the hot water in the house. He designed a large brick incinerator in the heart of the kitchen, which warmed our backs when we gathered for breakfast at the table overlooking the circular driveway in the front of the house, and burned the trash generated in the home. It sounds like a grand home, which it was, but it was also a cozy home. There was an upstairs bedroom and bath over the garage just off the kitchen where we kids would stay when we came to visit on those innumerable Christmases and summer visits. This was strategically placed at the completely opposite end of the house from the master bedroom and guest bedroom, where our grandparents and parents slept. However, there was little danger of our waking Nana and Grandad, who gathered each morning in the kitchen for breakfast, and watched the Today show at a loud volume, which usually cued us up and out of our beds in the garret bedroom.

The back side of the L which was the living room, faced on the one side onto the large patio, and on the other side to a broad expanse of grass, and the fenced in pool area, where every day after work (in the summer months), John would put on his bathing suit, walk out the gently curved slate stepping stone path to the pool, ascend the low diving board, and dive into the pool, gliding beneath the water to the shallow end; when he emerged, dragging his hand through his majestic mane of hair as he smiled indulgently at his grandchildren cavorting around him in the pool.

A  book-lined den was the exit point for the pool pathway, and in the den were two of the chairs which I still have in my home and which were the impetus for this Labor Day’s labor of love. I have recovered both chairs since inheriting them from my mother; the last time in some orange or rust colored fabric which seemed like a good idea at the time, but which after 10 years or so, are disgusting. The high wing back chair, too big for our new downtown condo,  I donated it to the School for use on stage. It immediately made its way into the furniture cast of Lady Windermere’s Fan, and I discreetly waved to it when it appeared in the third act, Lord Darlington’s study. It always was an attention-grabbing chair. I’m so happy I could assist it in making its stage debut.

The other chair, a comfortable reading chair, originally upholstered in a nubbly navy silk (at Grandad’s house), had been the chair which was in Chris’ room when he was still young and willing enough to be read to before falling to sleep. Both Jimmie and I read the entire Harry Potter series from that chair, and spent hours sitting in it waiting for Chris to fall asleep. I have bonded with that chair and am not able/willing to let it go. It currently sits in our bedroom which is accepting of the orange fabric, but I have a bolt of upholstery fabric (selected after the West Elm chairs and sofa) waiting to grace it.

So, imagine our delight, when, after careful perusal of the West Elm site, we entered the store and lovingly selected the beige fabric for the new sectional. I should say the entire reason for this reno really was my attempt to return to the edenic chaise that we had gotten rid of shortly after moving into our new condo. There is nothing I like more than plunking down on a chaise with my feet up after a 14 hour day in the theatre. What could be better, right? The previous chaise was banished due to the ungodly feline stench that remained after years of owning cats, who, as they aged, increasingly lost their bladder control. Nuff said. The couch had to go.

In the mean time, back at West Elm, Rachael expertly guided us through the selection of the Dunham sectional sofa with Linen Weave “Natural” color, the Two Veronica Taper leg chairs with Retro Ikat pattern in Blue Lagoon, and Chocolate Legs, the Rustic storage coffee table. I was giddy from the spree, and practically skipped down the sidewalk to the car as we left the store. Rachael had explained that the furniture would arrive in stages – the coffee table almost immediately, followed in late October by the chairs and in early November by the couch, which has an 8-10 week lead time but which would be delivered with their “white glove” delivery service…

Time out for Tech

It is the season of the relentless techs. We are four shows into the parade of eight fall semester shows which means that we are teching every weekend. It is extremely different to be in tech as a production manager than it was as a stage manager. I am very peripheral to the process as the PM; I get to bring donuts and make people happy at the beginning of the 10 out of 12.

I also get to take the set designer down to the props storage to pull dressing for the set, and occasionally get to swing away from campus to pick up the errant prop (though these ventures are much less necessary since the arrival of “Speak-the-truth-Hannah,” who is so superb at her job as Props Manager.

Last weekend was Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa.” This weekend is a new play by EM Lewis called “Infinite Black Suitcase.” Next weekend we will spend supporting Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” What tech now allows me to do is to observe the directors. To take note of things with a directorial eye, and to write them down, and if I am feeling bold, to send them to the director to do with what he/she will. Some directors are grateful for my notes; some do not mention them at all, but I will notice one of them having been inserted into the production when I come back to see a performance. It strokes my ego.

Makes me feel useful. But the main thing I feel during the tech season is tired. Just want to lay down and sleep for 10 hours. But it isn’t possible. So I rise and shine and buy the donuts and sit and observe. Time out for tech.

My long suffering husband waits for me at home. Saturday I am exhausted.

Sunday, after tech and a strike of the previous show’s set, we go out for dinner – always to CPK. It is a tradition now, one that began about 8 years ago when I joined the school’s production department. Strike pizza. Some couples call it date night, but for us, it is just an hour stolen from tech time to catch up and remember our lives together. To hoot in support of our team on the TV over the counter in the CPK.

So I am off to bed to sleep for 6 hours or so before the hummingbirds get up and so do I.

The Hummingbird Chronicles, Part 3

August 27, 2013

Things in the hummingbird kingdom are puttering along. The birds now favor the left feeder to the point that they are emptying it within two days to the four it takes for the right feeder to be emptied. IMG_2552

The other day I saw an oversized hourglass filled with sand over at Surplus Sales. I made a remark to the guy at the counter that it must be disturbing to have such a reminder constantly of one’s mortality. Do you remember the Days of Our Lives top of show intro?days-of-our-lives

“As the sands through the hourglass, so run the days of our lives.” This reference went nowhere with the guy, and he looked at me like I was crazy. But once I got home that afternoon and saw that the hummingbird feeders were both empty, I realized that Jimmie and I now had our own little hourglass of sorts. And we are the proud caretakers to about a dozen hummingbirds. They are dependent on us to provide the sugar water and they are drinking it faster and faster each time we put it out. They are voracious little suckers.

Good news – Marcus and Suzy have moved in next door, so I guess if we are to go away for the weekend or something, we could ask them to come fill our feeders, and leave some liquid in the fridge for just that event.IMG_2554

The most active time of the day seems to be about 3:30PM. Jimmie takes his waterglass out and watches them girate and frolic. He loves to watch them as they assemble on the feeder’s tiny red rail – two at a time, then a third, then a fourth, all adjusting the way you instinctively do in an elevator as more people board the elevator – allowing as much space between you as is possible. But the hummingbirds can reach only about 5 before the delicate relationship crumbles. Along comes a high-strung bird who hovers just above their shoulders and then dives in, scattering all the birds to the winds.

They also seem to work in twos, Jimmie noted. One will hover over the shoulder so that the seated bird swivels his head around and then the second bird swoops in and sits down on the rail. The original bird is then startled into a fight with the hoverer and the second bird takes the rail and begins to drink.

There is something so soothing about coming home from a stressful day and sitting and watching the birds. Nothing to do about them, just to enjoy them. Now that my hours are longer and techs will keep me at work long after dark, I am greedy for the time in the morning with my tea and the newspaper and the birds.

Life is good.

Letters from Venice – Part V

Sept. 18, 1982

“Dear Diary” if this isn’t a flight to freedom via occupation – i.e., writing, I don’t know what is. There are these people next to me who are trying to get their baby to coo while Daddy is poised overhead with a camera like a doctor with a microscope over a specimen jar. Mommy is cooing in…yes, baby talk in French – an international bad habit. I wonder, will I coo at my babies? – God, I hope not. Well, here I am in Como, Lake Como, and northern Italy. I was just out on this jetty in the middle of the lake, and burst out laughing at my educational process – this week of solo traveling between Bob and Florence and Dad and Joan in Amsterdam. It all began in Milano, when I waved goodbye to Bob and Lee. Crying (as always these days), I climbed into the train and miraculously, a space opened up in a compartment full of very friendly Italians – (Ed. Note: All this is hence colored by today’s incidents.) While en route to Milan, we spent two of the three hours in discorso, using the Italian dictionario, the map, and all sorts of handy visual aids. They were very nice, counseled me against “bad men,” and with the exception of one of them, kept their hands off me. The one was relatively harmless; he kept offering me a ride to Como on his “macchina” at the station. In spite of his assurances that his wife was coming along, I intuited that it was not terribly safe. One of the men, named Franco, was very polite and sensitive to my discomfort when it occurred. At Milan, he helped me to call Louisa in Venice, and took me to see Il Duomo in Milano Centrale. Beautiful, with 100 carved figures on the outside alone. And hundreds of spires, also. It was great. Afterwards, he put me on the train and I left for Como.

Which was, and is beautiful. Lake ComoI arrived at 6:35 or so and proceeded to the Hostel, which was, yes, chiuso, (closed) since June. There, I met a German fellow with a car, and we ate dinner, and then searched for a place to stay. Ma tutto era completo (All hotels were full). And even in the towns on the north side of the lake, there was nothing. So we parked the car, and with Walter’s blanket, I slept on a beautiful bluff over looking the lake, and Walter (God, that name cracks me up) slept in the car.

LakeComoatNightI was reminded of our alpine location, about 12:30 when it began to become very cold. But god, it was glorious when the sun started to come up, and the roosters at various points around the lake began to crow. I awoke at 6:30AM for the last time, to find three hawks circling over my head – I sat bolt upright and gave them the visual clue that I was alive, even if at that point I did smell like dead meat! Came down to Como proper, saw Walter off to Austria, and sought out a bagno publico (public bath), which I found and used in luxury. On my way out, past the market, a vender gave me two apples, not prime by any means, but surely edible, all was looking up when I went to the Grande Piazza and sat down to soak in the sun. Then comes this “nice little old man,” who sits down next to me and starts talking. So we had a nice conversation – the guy was old enough to be my grandfather. Then he asked me if I was hungry, after we’d discussed how “Couragio” (courageous) I was etc. for the night before. And so I go to lunch and he guy wants wine – first tip. “No, I don’t drink,” says Els, catching on quickly. Well, lunch was fine, though I lost my appetite sometime after he asked me to have dinner ad before he told me it was better if I stayed overnight in his house –It wasn’t safe “solo.” Well, granted, it apparently isn’t safe solo, nor did I want to go near this guy’s house, even for caffe, or cognac or cinema, or anything. I just felt stupid to be part of this aging man’s heart attacks or wet dream –god I sound hard. I really guess it boils down to the fact that I felt stupid and selfish and naïve and guilty and entirely justified in leaving him after lunch. Quite a tasty little psychological soup, that!

So, I’m passing the day solo and trying to remain as inconspicuously so as possible I pity the man who comes near. Old Iron Fists Collins here. Tonight at 11:30PM I’m taking the train to Thionville – will sleep on the train. “Sleep”, a euphemism for remaining on guard. I’m sitting on the edge of the lake, which is no punishment or exile – God, It’s glorious.

Sept. 22, 1982

The evening after my imbroglio, I spent with a beautiful young Italian boy- I say boy, because he was about 18-19, and was refreshing in his playfulness. He approached me by offering me a smoke – of hashish, no less, which I politely refused – images of imprisonment lingered in my brain the entire time we were together, even after he buried his “drogues” in a hole nearby. It was really a lovely evening, spent talking about inanities, really, listening to his ghetto blaster and watching the night settle in. There are certain safeties of being with someone and also a comfort of human companionship, of course.

ThionvilleAt Thionville, after a long night on the train with no sleep (I slept on the floor in the passageway, kicked every five minutes or so) I found L’Auberge, and the propriertaire let me sleep all day long in spite of the fact that the hostel was closed. It was great. There, that night, I met Mikie and Tom, a Finnish woman and Canadian man traveling together and we went out for a beer (coke). It was especially refreshing to speak English in more than the most crude way.

The next day, I spent reading, walking around Thionville, Thionville2 and buying books (when it rained). First French books, and a dictionaire. The next day, the 21st, on to Bruxelles, Bruxellesand finding the hostel gutted and ferme (yes, you guessed, closed), I proceeded to Chab, where I met Jessie James, an American vet who was stranded in Brussels, waiting for his veteran’s pension. Pretty interesting guy – “Jessie James” isn’t far off the mark – has quite a few tricks up his twenty-seven-year-old sleeve. Told me about “doing an American Express” to “double your money.” I had to like him, though he was incredibly smooth to the point of being “glissant.” My roommates at the hostel were fascinating –Oorna, a young Israeli woman – I would have liked to travel with her. She reminded me a little of Jessica, tough, but with a true mirth that comes of having seen some things. She had served in the army two years and was proud of her country, but had problems with the evacuation from Beirut of the Palestinians. It is getting very rough in Europe now, with assassinations of Jews occurring in Paris, Amsterdam. It is not a good time to be Jewish and traveling here.

On to Amsterdam today to get my mail!