Monday, December 30, 2013

#30 Remember me?

Please don't look at Blog #29. If you do, you will see that it has been over a year since I have sat down to write. Well, I write. E-mails and FaceBook and the occasional real letter on paper, that is not what I mean. My muse has been AWOL. I would like to think that she has been having a wild fling somewhere in London or Barcelona. Perhaps she was exploring in Namibia or Patagonia? Where ever she was, it wasn't with me in Alameda/Oakland or driving back and forth 3 times (and 9 thousand miles) to NYC. She is a brat...read that as it rhymes with itch.
So I am back in New York. 2 more years! I volunteered to return, in order that my fully capable and very smart son would have a reliable Subway Guide. Natalie, I was never worried about. She will navigate this city, to and from NYU and to all points far and wide, without a problem. Given that Richard would get lost in Berkeley, you get my drift.
Not that I am with them that much at all, anyway. They lead their own lives. We pass in the very narrow hallway which holds our kitchen (if you can call a mini fridge, a sink and a very small gas stovetop/oven a kitchen), chat about what's going on and then go and do our "thing". They are night people, and I am very much a day person. No one is underfoot. As far as I am concerned...it is all perfectly choreographed.
Speaking of choreography, I am branching out as far as the "theatre" is concerned. I am doing lots more off Broadway and even off off shows. I still haven't seen Matilda or Kinky Boots, those big blockbusters. I am going to improv, dance and comedy shows. I saw an all girl production of Julius Caesar and an all male production of 12th Night. Readings and concerts done by My Divas are still high on my list. Lots to do and not enough time or money to do them all. 2 years is not long enough...which brings me to my real point......there never is enough time.
Two weeks ago, I got a kick in the gut that has not, nor ever will be mended. Someone so close to me I consider a sister has told me that she has Alzheimer's. I can't really talk about where my head and heart go when I get close to that last sentence. It's too soon, and I am too close to her to be able to stand back and think. I just react. Been doing that for 2 weeks now and it's not getting easier. I just need to say one thing out loud and large....live each day well, by telling those you care about, they are loved. I was going to say something about being healthy and exercise, but in this case, she did all that and that fucking disease found her anyway. I'm so angry!
It has been my humorous diversion to say that my life is a Soap Opera that no one would even bother to watch. We all have aggravations and emotions that fill our lives, but in the great scheme of things, all that drama is just background noise. Nothing matters more than friendship and love, and I am very angry that some monstrous disease is taking that away from me. I fully intend to be a glass half full person to my friends and my family. Please join me in that quest.
Someone sing TheBeatles "All We Need Is Love" now. Please don't ask me to start it. I have an "only in the car...alone" kind of voice!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

#29 Friends, Gott'a Love'm

It's the season to be thankful. I've been thinking about such things lately. Being back in the bosom of my family, and catching up with and visiting friends I haven't seen in 2 years, will make a person thank her lucky stars for the people who populate her Venn diagram. There have been some that got lost from my view, and some I wish never to see again, but I do count myself very fortunate on the friend front.
I have often thought that I should have been more aware of "the friend factor" long ago. A person who has 1 friend in their world should probably be avoided (and that shouldn't include their mother), along with those who have so many that they flit from one to another. I've got a friend who went to nursery school with me. I care not to count how many years that represents. Don't let me get on the subject of my SummerCamp buds. We even have reunions, and I remember all the words to the songs. When I drove back from New York I saw pals I had in college, and when we sat down together the conversations and laughs started right off from where we had left them.  God, I am blessed with good luck. Well, I will take some credit for these blessings. I do have a delightful personality (if you can't poke fun at yourself, you are doomed).
When I left for NYC, there were parties and dinners and get togethers to speed me away and to wish me well. Had I been blogging then, you wouldn't have seen words about loss. There would have been little worry on my part about not seeing those faces again. I love my friends. Frankly, also, I never even gave one nano second of thought to the fact that I really only had 1 friend when I landed at Kennedy Airport in October of 2010. I did know that I wasn't going to hang on my friend Susan's coat tails and rely on her for my introduction to real life in The City. That's an ugly way to treat people.  She wasn't going to baby me. I did, however, rely on her for restaurant tips. SHE NEVER GAVE ME A BAD  RECOMMENDATION. The girl knows her food!
Anyway, back to having zero friends in a new town...Rush Lines! Yes, that was where I started to build up my friend base. I talk. I talk a lot, and it proved to be very useful. I made pals in Rush Lines and at Stage Doors all over. Downtown, Midtown, even in Queens, wherever there were theater people, we talked. I actually started the process the previous September in LA, at the Leap of Faith SD, where I casually said to this nice young woman standing around waiting for Raul E, while I was waiting for Kendra K, "I'm moving to New York to do this very thing 24/7." That was Elisa, and we have been best buds ever since. Oh, have we been around the town, and does she know EVERYBODY! (some adventures to tell another time)
WICKED lottery was another place where conversations led to friendships. People of all ages, waiting in Schwartz Alley, trying to please the Lottery Gods and smile at Joel, the tight lipped man who pulls the names. By the end of my 2 years, we were on first name basis, and I can guarantee you, he NEVER gave me a break. (insert bad word here that rhymes with truck) I even have a picture of him smiling with my daughter, a major win!
Then there was the magic of having visitors. When people came to stay with me, they introduced me to other people and actors and singers who broadened my world. Jacqueline (queen of the TWickies) dragged me to a fund raising concert early on in my adventure, and that's where I got into the world of the sweet singer/songwriters. The list of these Divas is too long to include. I have mentioned them before. I can truthfully say that in following these gifted women, they have been appreciative of the support and  nice friendships have evolved. I'm not stupid enough to think these stars are my close friends, but they know I care and a friendliness has resulted. You see how fast I get a group together when they venture out to California in the near future. Morgan James is coming to Modesto in December...we will be there!
Can't leave out my Internet pals. There is a group of women I hang with on-line, who come to NYC to gather a few times a year to celebrate certain extraordinary actors from TV. Great fun. Great dinners and great times wandering New York. A few of them have welcomed me into their homes, and we are like family. Long walks around Central Park or visiting hometowns, a mere bus ride away, make for great conversations and resultant closeness. I cherish these new friends. They are solid gold to me, and I like that they value me. They didn't have to befriend me. Their lives were already full. How lucky am I? Very.
The culmination of the friendship circle was the Welcome Back Party the TWickies had for me 2 weeks ago. Did we laugh? Did we eat? Did we embody the true spirit of friendship? Yes, indeed!
None of these people knew each other before February of 2009. Total strangers. Yet we have bonded and are friends. We worry about each other. We are happy when someone succeeds. We rejoice in the evolution of this group. That they wanted to have a party for me was a bit overwhelming, but I got over that real fast. It wasn't really about me. It was about the group and it was beautiful. They are beautiful. Life is beautiful. You are beautiful. "Thank you for being my friend!"

Sunday, October 14, 2012

#28 Happiness Of The Long Distance Driver

I've been back a week. It's time I face reality, write perhaps the final entry with this blog name and move on to what proves to be the next step in my journey. Lots of thoughts are whirling around in my head. I have been practically inert for 7 days (except for a thorough cleaning of the loft's refrigerator, which was necessary for my health). I am delighted to be back in the warm arms of my family. This week I jump back into seeing friends and tending to business, but I need to say a few words about the therapeutic aspects of long distance driving.
My Cali friends already know of my penchant for driving. For years, I would hop into my car at the mere mention of a show or Diva appearing in LA or SD, and hit Highway 5 running. Well, perhaps that's the wrong word, but my speeds were legendary, as were the number of tickets I acquired. The acquisition of my Prius made the decision to drive all over the region even easier, with the almost 60 mpg gas tank. I expanded to Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, but the joy never wained. Pack a ton of CDs, some snacks and a bag of TootsiePops, and I was gone!
So, with 2 years of not even entering an auto (oh, one taxi, but I didn't pay), my recurring visits to Traffic School were a blip in my memory. Would I be even able to remember how to start a car? Would I get a ticket in New Jersey (or worse Texas, where they take you to the slammer)? Would I get killed by some crazed person when I stopped in a rest area or talked to a stranger? Would I run out of money as the gas prices rose as I got closer and closer to California? Would I make it to my appointed stops on time? So much to factor in.
I drove, rather than "leaving on a jet plane", because of "stuff", and I had a relative who works for Hertz.  Loved the huge discount, and I easily packed up that mini-van with the 20 boxes, 2 appliances, a huge duffel, and even had a snooze space in the back row of seats for those long haul days. I am a genius when it comes to packing and configuring, if I do say so myself, and why not...it's true. Not one inch of wasted space. Of course, there was no room for passengers. No hitchhikers would be picked up along the way. JUST KIDDING I only did that once, in Chicago and boy was that a good story, but I digress.
So, at 7, Sunday evening, I gave my apartment keys to the mean Russian "Super" Mary, and drove over the GWBridge into New Jersey, following the sun. Not much daylight left, but I did give a wistful glance over my left shoulder, back over the Hudson River and bid NYC good-by.....for a while.
First, let me complain about tolls! Damn, I hated shelling out money every new highway system. I need to total up the fees, but they were certainly eating away at my food cash. I had clever remarks to make to the tollbooth takers. Some even laughed and asked why I was so cheerful. Guess that's unheard of on long haul drives, but I was in a good frame of mind. I had already cried my eyes out on 6th Avenue and Minetta Lane on Thursday, so I was over that emotional hurdle. Dinner and Brunch with friends only served to strengthen my relationships. Oh, I hesitate to mention my drunken Subway ride home Saturday night, but it was a glorious send off at Junior's, so never mind.
I drove all night on adrenalin. When the sun rose, I was leaving Pennsylvania. Boy, that is a pretty state on it's western side. Lush forests which were turning into the Fall colors. Stunning. I made quick work of Ohio and Indiana and made it to River Forest, Illinois for my first stop. A quick sleep and check-in with a very sick friend and then off again...to Oklahoma; more friends, some cows, a real bed, great dinner and lots of laughing. I pick my friends well. There was the nerve wracking task of driving through Bush2's state, with Texas Rangers hiding at every crossroads. I was very careful about my heavy right foot. No bad occurrences and one great one. I decided to treat myself to a tiny out of the way one horse town BBQ joint in Childress, TX. I mean one horse. I love sampling BBQ on my drives. This place was cooking the brisket outside, in the parking lot, in a ChooChooTrain smoker and had a home made sauce that Bobby Flay would want to serve. I wanted to stay and live with those people, but I had the long haul to Arizona up next. Coming down from the high country at sunrise,  to the basin where Phoenix is was just magnificent. It was a lonely country road for most of the way and was part dessert, part forest/mountain landscape, a very steep windy road and ended in the hot city: 6,700 ft (57 degrees that night) to 1,117 ft (85 degrees that afternoon). Lunch with another friend and then on to Tucson for my first appointed round of MORE THEATER.
Yes, I had tickets to see Kendra Kassebaum in Next To Normal. That was worth all sorts of stress and long hours. She was delighted to see me, and we had a nice talk before I was buckled up again and on the dark and southernmost road in the US to San Diego for another long night drive. Border guards and check points all over the place. You could see the "WALL" to the left trying to keep  people out, but it was a joke. I was worried I'd hit someone who might have wandered on to the highway. Driving that stretch was interesting and as the lonely auto, I had the good sense to follow the truckers and rely on their knowledge of that unfamiliar road. That was the most unpleasant drive of the entire trip. Oh, also aggravating when the Cali Agricultural guard took my oranges. I got them in WholeFoods in Columbus Circle you jerk!
When I got to San Diego, I met up with The TWickies for my next theater event. Yes, I drive 3000 miles to see my Divas. (Kendra got a big kick out of that line). We did a great lunch together, and I also snuck in a wedding reception for a SD friend's daughter before the show. No, I don't ever stop! Teal Wicks was staring in Jekyll & Hyde for my last "theater" in the foreseeable future. I'll be tied to home for a while and that was a great way to end my theatrical indulgence. Perfect, in fact, when you factor in her warmth and the love she generates. Her family was there. My theater family was there. It was a wonderful evening, that I re-lived in my mind as I drove up Highway 5 the next day. No, I did not get a ticket on The Grapevine! I did stop in Fresno to have lunch with a friend. She asked what I was interested in eating...no brainer...Mexican! There are no good Mexican places in NYC. Just ask my Texan friends, who are still searching back there.
I got to Oakland on time. Not even really tired. Delighted to see my pictures up on the wall of the loft where I will be living for the next 6 months for sure. It felt good to be surrounded by loved images. That leads me to think I have one or two more issues to contemplate about my 2 years in New York, so I renege on that threat about no more blog.
Suffice it to say, I loved my cross country trek. It was a wonderful way to transition from coast to coast. I saw friends I hadn't seen in ages (although there were some I missed along the way who are probably miffed with me). Got the chance to think, observe and sing my way through 12 states. Aren't I the luckiest?





Wednesday, September 26, 2012

#27 The 5 Senses Make No Sense At All Here

I have been trying to come to some universal understanding of what this place is like. Truly gifted writers have tackled this city, I do not presume, but I have gotten a sense of the place, and it has been rolling around in my mind and must be expressed.
SIGHT: There is a rhythm, a dance, a sense of movement, when you watch the people walk here. The masses mostly co-exist on the sidewalks. A single person threads oneself around, next to and in front of a myriad of people within a half a block of walking. Of course, the pace exponentially increases in the rush hour time frame, but with all the tourists on the streets, when you are in the TimesSquare area, it is madness most of the time. They stop mid-block and consult their maps, walk 4 abreast, and decide at odd times to pull out the camera and shoot something. Now I love tourists. I talk to them a lot, but they are clueless to the proper way to walk. Then there is the skill of crossing a street. NY'rs know how to look down the street. No one ever obeys the "DoNotWalk Sign" flashing across the street. We look to the left or right (most streets are OneWay), and if no car is seen within 20 feet, we go! I watch people cross the most busy streets all the time, gaging the speed of traffic and their need for speed. Another thing I have noticed is that people walk looking down. I do that because I love to find money and jewelry that has been dropped, but I think most walk to watch the shoes in front of them and mentally plan their next 30 feet of attack. Sort of like skiing down a field of moguls (bumps in the snow). You need watch the terrain, to get there safely. Luckily, the people here don't have to watch out for dog messes. They are very good at being responsible pooper people, but you always have to look out for those steel grates in the rain. They are damn slippery. I fell on my butt a few times on those babies. Last thing about sight is the joy of looking up. I know the joke about how to tell a tourist, but really, the tops of these buildings are amazing to see. Sometimes I find a good corner, nestle in and make myself invisible and just look at the skyline. Architecture here is so interesting, the old buildings in the Bowery to the new ones in MidTown. Sometimes, we go on building walks...so much fun to blend feet and eyes. Mention must be made of the dead bicycles, umbrellas and gloves that litter the streets and lamp posts. I should have done a book of photos. Oh, well. Last: Fireflys! Nuf said.
HEARING: When I was living on the 20th Floor (that much missed apartment owned by BitchFaceLandLord), I would leave the windows open to soak in all the sound. Of course the sirens, trucks and traffic were 24/7, but you could also hear people laughing (mostly the drunks) and the dogs barking all the way up there. Friends from Cali and elsewhere sometimes needed to resort to ear plugs to sleep, but not me. I need to add a note about the local drivers complete disregard to the scream of the siren. If you were in an ambulance and bleeding profusely, you would die on the way to the hospital, because NO ONE moves over. It's terrible, but luckily I have not had to worry about that personally.
So, sounds...the next of course must be the languages. Not one day goes by when I didn't hear a language that I think I have never heard before...and I've been lots of places. Makes no difference in what part of town you are lingering, the profusion of languages is so exciting. In SF you can hear some diversity, but in front of The Plaza Hotel, it is like the Tower of Babel is reborn. A lady just came up to me in Buckies and asked if I spoke Spanish, because she needed some help. Sorry, Senora, but I only got a C in HS Spanish. I was hoping to improve my skill by living in far off Inwood, where the Dominicans roll off Spanish on the stoops and the "Beisbol" fields, but alas, I'm still at the "Donde esta la biblioteca?" stage. While I'm thinking about Inwood, the park here is filled with the music of birds, even late at night. That's pretty strange to me, but I'll take it anyway I can. The other major sound in my neighborhood (or specifically, my apartment) is the music. I have a famous neighbor, and I think she subleases her apartment to musical geniuses: one plays the piano, the other sings soprano. I have listened to their practicing and enjoyed it as much as going to Carnegie Hall. Really, beautiful, and I have no way to tell them other than to yell out the window, and I have resisted that so far. I assume there are 2 different people, but that Diva I mentioned (if I tell you her name, I'd have to kill you) could be gifted in both arts. I will never know. Last but not least, the sounds on the Subway are awful and hurt the ears. The sounds on the Subway platforms are another story. I most remember the 3 elderly men singing harmony one afternoon. No one but me walking by and no hat out for money. They were singing for fun. It was magical. Oh, I forgot the sound of thunder. I love listening to it, while inside, warm and toasty, but have been caught outside and right in the down pour. Scary when you count the seconds from lightening to thunder and you only get to 1.
TOUCH: Walking is a contact sport here in New York. You are constantly bumping into people. Sometimes, if you are in a good frame of mind, you will say "excuse me" but more often that not, it will go unnoticed and just be part of the scramble. The touch factor in the Subway is beyond ridiculous. Rush Hour is almost as bad as Tokyo, but I have never seen a uniformed attendant push bodies in the car with white gloved hands. I have seen people half in /half out of the car door and the train is starting to move, because they can't maneuver in either direction. Then there is the "Subway Grind"an obscene act I have thankfully not observed. I have tumbled over as the train lurches and fallen into various people's laps, but I'll not talk about that, children may be reading. While still in the Subway, mention must be made of the heat in the Summer, just god-awful. A person could die down there, and I have no idea why there aren't statistics about such fatalities. Now, in the Winter that heat is a joy, so I'll just shut up, now. I'll call exhaustion at the end of the day a factor of touch. Tired feet and sore backs have made me really glad there is an elevator at the end of my train ride. Man this city can tire you out! It's a good feeling, I suppose. I do like that I average 5 to 6 miles a day on the pedometer, but thank goodness a few hours sleep restores my weary body. I'm not as young as my friends here, but I keep up with them (except for the drinking). Don't forget when I wrote about touching thousands at the Pride Parade. I must have High 5'vd the entire right side of that event. Best of the best...I think I hurt myself. Can a person get Parade Wrist Sprain?
SMELL: Let's think about the nice smells first: Central Park, the flowers on Park Avenue, restaurants around dinner time, the bakeries in the early morning come to mind, as you would expect. I will add the horses in Times Square. I love them, and I will admit to loving the horse droppings that sometimes follow them. They remind me of Camp. I saw some silly teenage girls go absolutely bonkers when they encountered horse manure. It gave me a good giggle (or should I say horse laugh). Sometimes the man hole covers smell like the entire city will blow up from a gas explosion, but I get out of those neighborhoods fast. Greasy food carts and the nut vendors smell terrible, but the WORST smell and one that really can't be described adequately are the homeless dudes on the subway who haven't bathed or seen a bathroom in weeks. If you see an empty Subway car, be wary, it probably is occupied by one of those dudes, who is passed out or perhaps dead. Do Not Enter!
TASTE: Best not to consider taste unless you have paid for it. There are some wonderful things to eat here. I'd need an entire post to get into that, but highlights would be real bagels and real pizza. I am fond of $1 pizza in Times Square from a place called OZ Pizza. I am perhaps biased on that score. I have mastered the art of folding pizza and walking down 8th Avenue in a great hurry. What an accomplishment. Doesn't make the pizza taste better, but it does separate you from the riff raff. Bagels must be eaten slowly. Real bagels are cooked twice and are so heavy you could break your toe if you dropped one. They lighten up with the liberal application of cream cheese and lox if you have the bucks. Not to leave out the corned beef sandwich, but I must, as that also is a long story. Always remember to wash your hands before eating. Lots of germs here. I don''t follow my own advice, because I'm usually so hungry I forget, but perhaps sometimes.
THE 6TH SENSE: There is a sixth sense, you ask? Of course there is and it has nothing to do with seeing dead people. It's ESP. It's the intuition and raw instinct that helps a person to get along here: knowing where not to walk late at night, the feeling of danger when coming around a corner that leads you to go to the middle of the street and avoid dark places. It also is a good force and necessary to enjoy all the above mentioned 5: the sense of joy when standing in the presence of the talent you discover, even the sense of boredom while you wait in a RushLine for hours to see a show, the sense of joy at being witness to the greatness of my Divas. There is also a 6th sense about picking a show to see off off Broadway. Sometimes that is a bonanza.
My instincts have proven to be excellent these past 2 years, and for that, I have a sense of gratitude.






Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#26 Monday Night Theater Notes From a FanGirl

Word of warning, the following will be old news to NewYorkers, and you should go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before you were so rudely interrupted. That's all.

While I lived in California, I would suffer the most pathetic pangs of jealousy, when I read of the events that went on Monday nights in NYC. Why, you ask? That's when the hard working theater people, step out of their regular lives and play. Perhaps play isn't the right word...sing for the joy of singing, is closer to the truth. They find gigs in the many tiny clubs and cabarets peppered around this city and jam, sometimes with friends for fun, sometimes alone to push a CD or a fund raising project, sometimes to get noticed by producers and casting gurus, but always, these things are on Monday nights...their day off.
One of the reasons I wanted to be a real resident of NYC was so that I could go to these marvelous Mondays. Small clubs like Rockwood in The East Village, Le Poison Rouge just off Washington Square, The Duplex in The West Village, The Metropolitan Room in Chelsea, also, the biggies like Birdland in Hell's Kitchen and Feinstein's on Park Avenue...they all are booked on Monday nights.
The newest venue for such delights is 54 Below. The old site of the infamous "downstairs" area of Studio 54, the hang out and playing field in the late 70's, of the In Crowd, led by Liza(with a Z), Andy Warhol, Halston, Diane von Furstenberg and the Glitterati of all culture in New York. But I digress. Now, the basement where they would all go and do unmentionable acts and nasty drugs has been turned into a stunning nightclub/cabaret. Broadway elite are headlined every night, but Mondays remain special. Last Monday proved to be the zenith of this fangirl's imagination..
Two of the Divas (you know I always use the word Diva with respect and reverence), who are at the top of my list are Julia Murney and Eden Espinosa. Please don't ask me to give you a detailed ranking of my Divas...it would tire out your eyes; there are many, and I love them, and they know it because I follow them whenever they open up their mouths to sing (or act). So, back to my point, Julia and Eden were performing on the same evening, and I was in fangirl heaven.
Julia has been on my radar for many years. She was in Lennon, is my favorite Eva Peron, has been a GreenGirlWitch, but her most glorious part was in a special show called The Wild Party. It should have gone to Broadway, because her role and performance was guaranteed to win her a Tony, but alas....
Still, she remains a beloved member of the theater community. We are all just waiting for her to get that next staring role. She sings all over the country, is in shows here and there, is very busy and how lucky was I to be in NYC when she announced that she was to do a new solo act.
So at 7:30, looking elegant and surrounded by a star studded group of musicians, her enormous & loyal fanbase and family cheering on in the audience, she sang heavenly songs and told her best stories. Oh, I forgot to say that she is wickedly funny. You learn a lot when Julia tells stories, like how she and Sara Bareilles both tried out for this summer's Into The Woods, or that Barry Manilow got a box of lyrics from Johnny Mercer's estate and wrote some damn good songs from them, or how Paul McCartney has a ribald view of a certain singer's itchy boobs. I will not go further.
My favorite of the songs she sang that night was Autumn Leaves. It is about love and loss and is so full of sadness. She is a great actress of music. She ended the evening with a sassy version of Bobbie Gentry/Riba's, Fancy. Why not go out with a song about a successful whore? We were all on our feet. Add the High 5 and "Happy Belated Birthday" I got from her, as she exited the stage, and I would say that was a wonderful evening......but it was only half over. Eden was on at 9:30.
So, my friend Taryn left me to sit alone at the beautifully located table close to the stage, and what do you know, but the Matre'd had a very nice gentleman join me for Part 2 of Diva Monday. Turns out he, Mark Nadler, is in an event at Carnegie Hall that Eden is doing in October to raise $$ for an Educational organization called Art-Start, and he himself is musical royalty (here's proof I don't lie, I only embellish: http://art-start.org/1014-defying-gravity-mark-nadlers-art-start-benefit/ ). So we have a great conversation, and I match him name for name in that game theater people play, and then I become aware of the change in the room. Julia's audience was elegant and serious. Eden's gathering was decidedly more mid twenties and sassy (translation, it was filled with hip theater people, many of which you even see on TV). The room was electric and ready to play. Just a different vibe and they wanted their girl...and in she strode, wearing red and full of fun.
The evening was to be a homage to Eva Cassidy. She died at 33 from GodDamn skin cancer, but left some music that seasoned singers try for 60 years to generate. Her genre was a blend of jazz, blues, folk gospel and country. She was huge in England and Europe. Serious music people know her. Look at her website: http://evacassidy.org/eva/
Anyway, back to my blog....Eden has loved Eva's music since her Dad introduced her to the LPs, and she is well suited to the genre, but she did mix in other songs in her set. She did a version of Fever that was combustible and had the audience fanning themselves with their napkins, I kid you not! Her rendition of  EC's Fields of Gold and I know You By Heart had me in tears...sitting in a nightclub at a table with a celebrity and I am bawling. Things really fell apart when she ended the set, sitting on her knees and with as much soul as I have ever heard, sang the Cassidy version of Over The Rainbow. NOTHING like Judy sang...all feeling and sad and you just wanted to rip your heart out. I must say, Eden did Eva proud. I heard that version of OTR once before when Kendra and Teal sang it in SF. I didn't know where it came from, now I do. I feel lucky to have heard it twice. You can find it here: Eva's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccCnL8hArW8  Kendra & Teal's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoLjju8zn8c 
Eden was full of fun. Sassed her friend Celisse Henderson, who is way high up on my Diva List, and she knows it. Also, she had some notes to young singers about the medicinal value of Maker's Mark on the rocks. She did a wonderful show that we all were sorry to see come to an end, but afterwards, I did enjoy talking to some of the celebs in the audience. Well, celebs to me, actors and singers I have grown to love from the SF and the NYC Stage Doors I loiter around. It's a mutual admiration society.
Well, that's Monday Night Theater Notes from where I stand. Long winded, to be sure, but full of love.
I will miss this part of NYC. It can't be replaced by road shows of popular musicals. It's really where it all happens in this wonderful city. 18 more days.....sob.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

#25 For Posterity

This is not a post about death, although death is at it's core. I want to record for my own memory a funeral I went to last week, and while doing that, I may comment on some things related to the genius who passed on to the next place, where ever that is.
Marvin Hamlisch died, suddenly August 13th, at the far too young age of 68. I resolved to go to the services. Several years ago, when the brilliant song smith Betty Comden died, I had mentioned to someone I knew on line, that I had wished I was in New York, so I could attend the memorial service. I got a blistering comment from her that it would be totally inappropriate to attend, if you didn't know the celebrity. That person has since become a really good friend, and I would never remind her of that exchange on this subject, but she was wrong and yesterday I proved it to myself.
I got all fixed up for Temple. The truly extraordinary Temple Emanu-El on 5th Avenue is historic. Not only is it a powerful example of The Reform Movement's stronghold on New York's wealthy Jewish Community, it is a stunning piece of architecture (and if you know me at all, you know I LOVE architecture...my first words as a Chicago baby were "Frank Lloyd Wright, goo goo"). The inside of the sanctuary is an enormous space, 103 feet high. No human images are on the sparkling stained glass windows, so far up that they seem only there to let in a beautifully colored light. Painted beams hundreds of feet to the top, covered with designs that echo the mosaics on the walls. The golden arch of marble at the front, guards the ceremonial treasures of the congregation, and the wooden pews extend the length of the building, to hold 2 thousand 5 hundred seats. It is imposing, yet reverent at the same time. Quite a space, and the Temple I know from Chicago was no small example of the genre.
This is where George Gershwin was eulogized in 1937, at the age of 38. Strange symmetry.
There was a choir of 600 singers on the left side of the space, the front third of the sanctuary was cordoned off for those who were personal friends, and the remaining area was for those of us who were respectful of his legacy. I over heard someone say that there was a "green room" filled with the famous, none of whom I ever saw, but names thrown around included, Mike Nichols, Diane Sawyer, Bernadette Peters, Liza Minnelli, Alan Alda, Brian d'Arcy James, Leslie Uggams Tony Roberts, Kelli O'Hara, Richard Gere & Joe Torre. I rode the bus over from the WestSide with a nice man who knew him for 25 years because he was his orchestration person. That was a treat to me.
The big gun was hauled out at the very start, as President Bill Clinton began the comments after the Rabbis had their section of the service. Bill Clinton! I was mystified, but then I gave it more thought and realized Marvin Hamlisch was the go-to man at The White House, when it came to theater or film music. Nancy Reagan and Michelle Obama also sent heartfelt statements. He was neutral, because music should be universal. Those were the politically correct parts of the service, but there were two more components: his friends and the music.
You can tell a lot about a person by the friends who stick by throughout a life. I'm very lucky in that department. I've got pals back as far as Nursery School. I treasure them, love the nick names I'm given, and try to keep track of those people, but that's hard sometimes. You could tell, by the stories told, that Marvin Hamlisch had longtime and good pals. One man told of meeting him at camp in The Poconos when they were teens. He was writing songs back then for heaven's sake! Six friends told tales of the public and private life of this man. It seems he loved to throw parties. I certainly can understand that. Of course, there were songs at these soirees, and he changed the words, much to the delight of the lucky attendees. Tales of his generosity were also spilled. He wasn't around, after all, to protest. His wife Terre, told of 26 years of marriage, but wanted us all to know, that "He never bragged". Her tone was certainly not sad, but rather jubilant. She was all smiles and energy. Also something I had to get a handle on, but after a while I did revel in her enthusiasm for this fun man. She called him "the peoples composer".
Through out the morning his music was played. At the beginning, there was half an hour of entrance music which were his songs, but at an extremely slow tempo that suited the organ well. Very strange to hear "The Way We Were" at an agonizingly slow pace, but it was correct for the moment. That massive choir (which was, as told by his wife, his special request) sang a multi parted version of that most famous song, that was so loud and complex, that I am sure it was heard beyond the stratosphere. It was spine tingling. My friend Kevin was in that choir (along with Lucy Arnaz and other Broadway people), how lucky. We were asked to sing with the choir, "What I Did For Love", a suitable choice and easy to sing. That was the song that brought us all to tears. Not just that a man was gone, but how can you not respond to "love is never gone, as we travel on, love is what we'll remember"? There is more, but I don't want to cause tears on my blog.
Then there was another song offered. Unannounced, and in a strong sweet soprano, I heard "At The Ballet". People looked around in question. Who was that singer? Why was she singing that song? I knew instantly. It was Idina. Idina Menzel, who had been traveling the country for over a year with Marvin Hamlisch, doing her concert, developing a strong relationship with him. I also knew that it was his favorite song from A Chorus Line. I was transfixed as she sang out her love for this man she called "her second father". All the words spoken by the Rabbis and the friends were felt by us all as Idina told her tale in song. Such a beautiful melody. Such complex rhythms and timing. It is a wonderful piece, and actually ended the services by putting us right into the heart of his musical genius.
As they carried the coffin out to the waiting hearse, I was reminded of the lighter side on Marvin Hamlisch's music. The requested color for all flowers was yellow. Stuck in the middle of the sunny bouquet was a huge "all day sucker". Did you know he wrote Lesley Gore's hit Sunshine, Lollypops and Rainbows? Neither did I, but he did.
I am glad I attended. I offered my presence in that place to show respect and to, in some way, represent those who couldn't go, showing that his music affected us all. In some small way, this short person, who really couldn't see anything because most of the world is over 5'2", that my energy supported that he was here on this earth. There was a cosmic feeling in that sanctified place, and I felt it. I hope his family and friends did too.  It wasn't just about "memories", it was a "Thank you for being here and you will be missed."




Thursday, July 19, 2012

#24 Bloggity Blog Blog Blog

I have been chastised by the best of you. I have received praise and encouragement for my turn of a phrase. There has been speculation that I have gone off the deep end. All this, because I have not Blogged in quite a long time.
Those of you who have been interested in my well being, and have kept in contact via the social media, are no doubt secure in the knowledge that I am fine and am squeezing out the last bits of pleasure this wonderful city can provide. I have gone to almost every theater presentation that was nominated for a Tony (well, truth is, that I didn't go see Death of a Salesman or Streetcar Named Desire, because I just have had enough of those ponderous plays). Some shows, like ONCE, GHOST, Peter and the Starcatcher, Venus in Fur, and Porgy and Bess, I have seen multiple times. I even had a rollicking time  Tony Evening by spending it with several hundred other TheaterDorks, sitting in front of a giant Jumbotron, on folding chairs, being gaped at by the tourists in Times Square. Yes, I was the one who leaped out of her seat and screamed with joy whenever her favorite actors won an award, much to the embarrassment of her friends sitting with her. I so don't care any more if I make people cringe. Life's too short not to be enthusiastic when the feeling forces itself upon you.
So, we know my theater life is fine.
As to my social life, that too is full and healthy. I have wonderful friends, albeit a goodly number of those friends are much younger than I. That is a great benefit to me. Not only are these people sharp, witty, energetic and always up on what's new and going on in NYC, they are generous at helping me to get Student Tickets, that helps in the budget crunch which is a fact of life for those of us living in this costly town. My friends go with me on adventures throughout the 5 boroughs, tell me about great and cheap places to eat and even hooked me up with the most fun I have had in a gazillion years...marching in the Pride Parade with one of the Theater groups that needed more bodies. Marching is the wrong word...walking and high 5ing half of the million people standing on the sidelines of 5th Avenue, is more accurate. I only slapped very hand on the right side of the parade. Sorry for the ones I "left out" on the other. I had  a seriously sore right wrist after that Sunday. My Friends tolerate my dorky presence at concerts on Monday nights in the jazz and night clubs where our favorite entertainers cut loose on their off night. I am never carded, they always are. I swear, I still do not have grey hair, but who would know that, as I always am wearing a hat (something I have done since I was 10...get over it people).
I should add that I have had company occassionally. Some visitors from Cali. have been by. Barbara, my beautiful daughter is here now. There was also a visit from Remi, the only male to grace these rooms. He is a dog and required walking twice a day but was no trouble at all. I expect only one more visitor before I leave town. TWickies are always welcomed here. If you don't get that reference, you haven't been paying attention.
As to my mental health, and probably the real reason I haven't blogged in a while, the immenent deadline for my stay here is fast approaching....too fast in my estimation, and that has no doubt added a subliminal depression to my psyche. I hate to leave. I must leave. I will leave. I will be back.
I don't want to think about it.
That's all for now. TTFN and LLAP
 PS: I leave you with some pics I took when Marti and I watched the fireworks on The Hudson, 4th of July. I'm very proud of the Happy Face one. Cel phone camera, remember. Oh, and one of Remi, the dog. Boy, would Bentley have loved this town.