A guitar pick, a baggie of water and pieces of a Stargazer lily.
A young, tattooed-everywhere man pulls his trick BMX off the front of the bus. An old, dark skin man wants me to know how beautiful I am.
I saw a man with no hands today. His bare feet were black from street and thick like shoe soles. He can obviously not tie or comb or steal.
The jasmine climbs the rain pipe.
I am so thankful for all the people whom have shown me love when I am down. They will love me. They will save me. They will tie my shoes, comb my hair and offer what I need.
Where were the people who love you, Black Soles. Why do you have no hands?
A vase of Stargazers, soon to perish, hold on to what’s left of living with all they’ve got.
This woman is magic for me. This woman is something deep. But she doesn’t really want anyone looking all the way in. I’m lucky. I don’t need to. I just get her. And I suspect her depths with such vivid empathetic imagination that it’s as if she’d already shared. She does. Little by little. But both of us want to keep her an infinite mystery.
Did you know I got my start in Chicago? Yup, I’m a Midwestern girl all the way. The truth is, I actually got my start in Detroit, but I was only 15, booking my first real professional musical theatre gig at the time (I couldn’t even drive myself to rehearsals – thank you, mom) and I didn’t even know what to do with a weekly paycheck at that age. But I sure liked missing school, that’s for sure! In Michigan, my home state, I worked a few more professional gigs before moving to Chicago, eventually, and Chicago is where I started a CAREER in performing arts. I “never worked another day in my life” after moving to Chi-town.
I am so grateful that the big city gave me the opportunities I needed to get started as a performing artist. Rent was cheap on Chicago’s South Side across from Comisky Park and I saw a lot of Sox games for only $1 on Tuesday Ladies Nights. I used a fake ID, not to drink at the clubs, but to dance at the clubs like Dome Room, the Double Door, the Mad Hatter and Funky Buddha Lounge. I explored Bachelor’s Grove and spent a lot of time walking LSD (that’s Lake Shore Drive for you non-locals). I taught tap dance for Hubbard Street Chicago on the South Side in a school I had to go through metal detectors to enter inside – Chicago was a far cry from my hometown/farm town in Michigan. And that’s exactly why I love it so, and owe so much to it, still today.
This interview is for Chicago’s Buzz News TV. Espousing my adoration and experiences in the Windy City as well as the current philosophy that has kept me rooted and real over these years in the performance industry. Enjoy:
PS – if you like Chicago talk, I do a lot of it in my Winter Warming Diet eBook, too.
There is absolutely no reason I should have a taste for wine. My father never touched a drink growing up (thank you, dad!) and my little momma, with absolutely no tolerance built up, would get thoroughly wasted off of two glasses of home-made margaritas twice/year, and do adorably silly things like leave her passenger door open and walk away, giggle like a little girl and a get a head ache from what I figured was not the cheap liquor, but the cheap liquor and onslaught of refined sugar combined in those unnaturally green alcoholic frosties.
My home town was a farm town and let’s just say that alcohol was the “devil’s libation” – at least socially in public. No alcohol sales permitted on Sundays or election days, only 3 liquor licenses available in city limits, and an economic profile that favored Pabst Blue Ribbon rather than Chateau St. Jean. Surely there were folk in my town that drove to Ann Arbor or Kalamazoo to pick up something of the fermented, rather than distilled sort, but I didn’t know them. When children say they “don’t like fruit and vegetables”, most often you’ll notice they’ve only been offered Dole bananas, red delicious apples and canned green beans – I don’t like those, either! So, too, has CABW (Cheap Ass Box Wine) inspired a premature prognosis of all wine to many a small-town pallet.
Lucky me, a professional performer, I landed a gig in the cast of STOMP. Only three women out of 1,000 auditionees were hired and after a rigorous training in NYC, two of us were sent to perform in San Francisco. As a professional performer, I would have probably never moved to San Francisco on my own – the population size and the proximity to Los Angeles combined did not allow for the opportunities I desired in my performance career. But I was blessed with a theatre contract to work under while I lived and loved that city – the progressive thought, the political empowerment, the geographic beauty, the luscious climate and the people, the people, the people.
Unless a casino is their venue, most thespians will confirm that Mondays are “dark days” across the United States. No stage lights, no house lights, no work lights – no shows – theaters are literally dark on Mondays and that means we get the day off! In San Francisco, I was the only STOMP cast transplant with a car so I organized little getaways for my best friends and I to take when we could. On one roadtrip, we drove north-east into Napa one dark day and being of age, stopped off on a whim at a rustic cottage-like building with a sign out front that read “wine tasting”. The tasting was free. I didn’t know enough about wine to tell you if it was “good” or not. All I knew was that I had just driven through 60 miles of pure geographical paradise, spent 20 minutes in a stunning piece of architecture, listened to a woman talk about plants, vines and fruit while she poured tasty sips apparently related to them, and had an silly fun time with my cast mates spending the day together, sharing that experience together. We STOMPers returned to Napa/Sonoma every dark day for the rest of our 8 month contract. We learned that people wanted to trade things for tickets to see our show – we got a private wine tasting class where the woman educated us on how we might enjoy our wines to the fullest and most importantly to my male friend, know how to order wine at a fancy restaurant and feel like we’ve impressed our date. I traded tickets for a bottle of Artesa’s Gewurztraminer one day (in 2008 Artesa discontinued Gewurzt and replaced it with a late harvest Muscat desert wine instead, by the way). What began as a haphazard dark day road trip turned into one of my favorite mini (or mega) getaways.
This my friends, is the story of how a farm town girl becomes a wine enthusiast. Lucky me; in Napa and Sonoma Valleys, where some of the most renowned wines on earth are produced. And to this day, you will not find one bottle of wine purchased off a store or warehouse’s shelves in my collection. Because to me, the wine is so much more than flavor. It is the color of the vines surrounding the estate in early November. It is the architectural design of the tasting room welcoming my visit. It is the personality and passion of the pourer, it is the shape of the wine glass, it is the poetic words your best friend uses to describe the scent, and it is the sitting still long enough to appreciate the experience that one notices mist hanging heavy over the rolling hills and the infinite, distinct voices of birds who, too, seem to adore grape vines.
No wine on a store shelf provides this experience for me. So to select my wine, I go taste my wine. And friends, there are wine grapes now grown in all 50 states. You do not have to be in the famous Napa Valley to discover a wine that suites your pallet. I have tasted in New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Encinadas (Mexico) and in the great southern California valleys, too. Every grape yields different wine, every region, every block, every vintner, every vintage – and only you know if you like the combination of those things or not. A passion for wine is a passion for process. Wine tasting is not judged on how much you agree with the experts on what wine is a masterpiece – wine tasting is wholly about the level of depth in which you enjoy the experience. This is not Pabst Blue Ribbon guzzling here. This is a challenge to find your own sensuality receptors and explore them. If you taste the wine, you know wine.
My mom is a small woman in my embrace. She is my mom and yet she is so much smaller than I. She loves being huged and giving hugs and I notice that because it’s the most important thing about a relationship to me;
The Embrace: to expose the soft organs of the body completely and flatten the heart specifically against another’s heart. To touch the hearts. To smell the odor. To talk to energy. To listen to energy and to simultaneously shout, mandate, offer, suggest, understand, assimilate, resolve, hold, hold, hold, reciprocate.
To hold my mom close in public. It is wonderful. It is obvious. It is me loving my mom. It is no weapons, only open arms.
She is such a special woman. Aloof and dare I say cute. She held me when I was small enough to fit entirely in her embrace and she loved me with all her might. I don’t really remember that early on, but I am who I am today and that tells me without a doubt: my mother held me. I live proof of being held.
I hold my mother, too.
It’s cold now, I guess, but I’m not shutting the windows.
I grew up in a home my father built with his own hands. With plenty of glass door windows on seven out of it’s eight sides, sitting indoors reading a book on the couch was undifferentiated from reading a book outdoors on the porch swing in this house.
As soon as the weather got warm enough to shut off the furnace in spring, the windows would open and they would not close until the furnace fire was lit again. Even then, the windows might have remained open had we not cared about wasting electricity.
Which of course we do.
So … I’m riding through my first full-season autumn in Hollywood and you know, I totally judged SoCal autumn, calling it wanna-be, comparing it to sugar maples turning every shade of sunshine and soil, and then falling to the ground in a final flamboyant display of creativity in say; real autumn-havin’ locations.
Oh, Midwest maples are too brave for their own decoration. Naughty, nekkid maples.
But comparing the two is like a mom actually answering her son when he asks whom she loves more – him or his sister. Because both are pretty, girls, and honeysuckle just erupted in Silverlake – roses are near-wild near the Larchmont mansions. Angel’s Trumpet and lemon trees are looking good in the ‘Wood. And the heftier fruits such as Ju Ju Bees, figs, apples, grapes, persimmons and pomegranates beautify the local farmer’s stands. Yes, this is autumn, too, and there is no other autumn like it.
The sun is still warm during the day, but the wind is cold. And it moves quite a bit faster and with voice, across my meditating form stretched across the floor rug, still refusing to shut those windows even at nite when I have to admit; it’s probably too cold.
For what? For something. I forgot what for, so … then wind moves across my floor-rug-stretched October cadaver meditating on how nicely this relent is sitting in. Intuitively I feel like relaxing. The push is over. And now I reap what I’ve sown, ride the two coasting wheelz, and sentiment over how unpredictably went this year and what a notable push it was. I guess it doesn’t matter what part of the country I am in in autumn. I get to feel this way even in Southern Killa California.
If I only live 120 years, I’ll only ever see 120 autumns. I’m not missing this one. If these windows weren’t wide open, I’d be outdoors anyway.
How lucky some people are like me. To be sitting here in March with our windows open. There are no screens in these frames and the bedroom walls sweat sweet jasmine – the moon exhales hot moisture.
Oceans boil from the core temperature raised.
How lucky some people are like me who love people. We find something devastating and alluring in every hand we shake. In New York in Chicago in Austin of course too. And people in New York in Chicago and of course Austin are amazed by us, too. Or at least they say all the right things to make me think so. I really don’t care because sometimes a girl just needs a shoulder massage.
Sugar coated berries are berries all the same.
I consider myself most lucky of all the rational people because I have a brother – a sibling – kinfolk kinda bro. And genetically and circumstantially, he is most like me over any other human in the world. And I, like him. And I like him. In fact, I’m amazed, impressed, humored, challenged and consoled by him.
My little brother is the light of my life.
We are lucky in deed, aren’t we?
My father has two children and very strong hands. He built a sand box for me in the back yard and when I had dug all the worms out and wore all the sand castles out, he then added on a swing. My dad had time every nite after super to push me on the swing. I would say “make it go higher, dad” which turned to inevitably, “not that high, dad”. My dad built the house I grew up in, too.
When I wrecked my first car one winter, my dad showed up and was so scared that all he could do was yell and be angry. I flipped that farm truck on the ice and crushed the entire cab in … it must have been scary for him to see. My dad and I bought another cab, sanded it down to bare metal, bondo-ed the thin spots, sanded and primered and painted and painted it candy apple red and put the whole damn thing back together … together.
He also taught me how to roof. Most girls don’t know that word can be a verb.
Today, as I sat down at the New Mexican cafe, I wished I was in Michigan cooking up dad’s favorite omelet and bringing it to him on a tray with a napkin, a carnation and a smile before he even got out of bed. But I’m a long ways away from Michigan in Santa Fe, and decided to trust that my mom would feed dad properly in my absence and the best thing I could do would be to nourish myself too.
So I and my friend (another father with strong hands and two children) chose a table in the Body Cafe in Santa Fe, across from the outdoor patio where not a soul sat – diners preferring the air conditioned and aromatic indoor accoutrements to the hot rot iron arid desert seating – even it there were umbrellas for shade.
Though the Sun did still stretch its furnace fingers through window panes all the way to our table, something about the Body Cafe in Santa Fe felt moist – even aquatic. Perhaps it was the spa on premises, with blue massage rooms, shower tiles and wall paintings. Or perhaps the moisture came from the vast yoga studio with mirrors, sprung bamboo floors, and natural light. Maybe it was a kitchen that prepared 90% organic, plant-based recipes of which my date and I enjoyed the mushroom-potent raw lasagna, high-vibration raw Pad Thai with water-rich zucchini noodles, or our favorite: a mountain of crisp greens topped with light-bright agave/mustard dressing. We fed each other with chop sticks and lived vicariously through the others’ enjoyment of each bite.
Maybe the Body Cafe’s perceived moistness, in the harsh high desert climate, was the feeling of abundance all of these things combined evoked. I felt like I had enough of everything to spare. In fact, I felt like an inexhaustible fountain of pure emotion and creative intent and I gazed at this man sitting next to me and put my hand on his face. His face – distinguished with lines from a life well lived. Eyes somehow open and clear after a lifetime of heavy experience. A touch – a hand on my thigh – expressing comfort with my body as well as his own. And I said to him, this dad also a million miles away from his daughter and son whom reside with their mother – I said to him, “happy father’s day”.
And I knew…
I knew that there are a lot of fathers out there who need to know that they are doing a good job. They want their children to express appreciation before children even know how to appreciate, so that they feel that they are being good fathers even when they get only every other weekend and holidays. I thanked him then for being a father because the truth is, I saw him once go to his napping 12 year old son and hold his hand on his son’s heart. I knew that boy was lucky to have a dad like this man, even if he can’t push him on the swing set after super every nite.
You know, my father and mother love each other deeply, and that means my dad got the chance to build me a house to live in, be at all my basketball games and get omlets brought to him in bed. Whether he is a bad guy or a good guy, a child’s father is her sole concept of maleness and every man in her life from all until eternity will be a version of or against that role model. My dad is a good dad because he is a good man. He insisted on happiness and love in his life. Every man I will ever know will be compared to that image of maleness. Thank you, dad. That is the most important thing you could have done for me.
So today, to all the men who understand, instead of wishing you a happy father’s day, I wish you a happy fathers’day. Being happy and in love is the most important thing you can let’s us see you doing.
I don’t care about the words my baby brother speaks, cause they all sound like singing to me.
I remember well how you flavored our world with drops of butterscotch possibility. I was eight, after all, when you came into being. One day there is a belly and one day there is a baby and to this eight year old elder, holding mini you felt the same in my arms as you did through my momma’s belly. Only puffier and redder and a bit more fragile than I had imagined.
I held you like an ice castle that might melt. I looked at you as if through a microscope. Though I was cautious – even reluctant – of your human frame, clutching it near my body felt as natural as the day I was born.
The day you were born.
And today, when you are visiting me on your college spring break – in sunny California all the way from snowy Michigan – when you say brilliant artistic intellect religious scholar type things, I don’t listen to the words. I don’t use my ears at all. I just hold out my arms and feel you. Recognize that golden treasure/blue sea place they are coming from. Because I have the same place in me.
We come from the same place. And those words sound like singing to me.
I go to the bathroom maybe three times a nite. I drink water every time I do, too. That’s why three.
I stumble around in the dark hallways of many a hosts catsle, only to leave lasting scars in my shin or imagine many a strange object looming before me.
As soon as darkness decends upon the day, my lights do not come up, no, but the first sulfur stikings of some long ago chicago bar match book, the cheap kind with the camel sillouette (you know there is a pyramid in his pecker or something like that, right? I’ve seen it, tru dat). As soon as darkness decends upon the day, one candle wick lit. Another in the bathroom. Finally and suddenly, too dark, as if a slow blind fold was being pulled gently, persuasively, imperceptably around your eyes, a dozen more tea lights, votives, and pillars – all in safe glass holders, all beaming like Thursday morning, my favorite morning every time.
Merry Thursday and a happy new something. Gosh bless us, everydamnone.
All my life I have wandered around this house in Michigan . The one my father built, while my mother and I were living in it – with his bare hands. Mostly by himself. I feel protected, safe, identified, cared for inside my father’s house. And I walk through rooms, long after everyone else has gone to bed, listening to moaning floor direct me through black halls, around half open doors and oddly shaped octagon angles and levels and how could anyone who grew up living in square boxes with vinyl siding and dry wall for support, constructed by someone other than your father – how could anyone feel at home in that?
A part. Welcomed. Unconditional. Safe.
Question: What criteria should be employed when dertimining the safety of a candle? Answer: A candle is safer and burns considerably longer, if wax is collected, instead od allowed to drip, for reuptake by the flaming wick. A candle is very safe if I fall asleep forgetting to blow it out, and no cat, no child, no housemate could possibly knock it down.
I always say: “turn on the fan and blow the candles out”.
Yes, yes. Did I mention I love wandering around in the dark.