30 December, 2010

In My Life: Tasha

in my life photo project 2010


tasha sheridan
london, england
2009

29 December, 2010

"Not Inferno. . ."

"One can only search for cities of the future by assembling pieces of cities from the present; and yet, the Khan asks, what if the ultimate city is that of the Inferno?
...
And Polo said:

‘The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by living together.

There are two ways to escape suffering it.

The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it.

The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno,
then make them endure,
give them space.’” 

-- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities


26 December, 2010

21 December, 2010

RSAMD: Drama at 60

So. My alma mater, The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (aka The RSAMD)'s School of Drama is 60 years old this year and I was hono(u)red and thrilled to participate in the Drama at 60 campaign.

Scotland is a beautiful country, Glasgow a beautiful city, with blinding creative artists in it-- and I was blessed to train there and will never forget the experience, and those that forever formed and touched my life, at the very beginning of my acting career...

Check out the RSAMD website, the Drama at 60 site, and follow the RSAMD on Twitter to learn more about the college that trained the likes of Alan Cumming, James McAvoy, John Hannah, Ruby Wax, Colin Morgan, Emun Eliot, Billy Boyd, Tony Curran, Richard Wilson, John Doyle, Robert Carlyle, David Tennant, and lil' ol' me (or, as they would say in Scotland-- wee auld me...)

20 December, 2010

An Extraordinary Correspondence

I: Is any of it real?
He: Of course it is. If we make it so...

...and so the magic carpet ride begins...

06 December, 2010

I've Been...

the orphans' feast...
Re-booking (Whoop!) my solo cabaret show "London Still" at the swishy swanky incredible New York Nightclub Feinsteins. Join me on December 26th, 2010 and January 4, 2011!

...Ooo! Not to mention, "London Still"'s Los Angeles debut on January 9, 2011 at the renowned Catalina Jazz Club

Totally hono(u)red by an Ovation Award Nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for Julie Jordan in Reprise's production of Carousel. Congratulations to Carousel for it's whopping seven nominations and to Reprise Theatre Company for it's ten total nods including Best Season! (PS) a great big special congratulations to fellow category nominee and longtime London friend Lara Pulver for her beautiful portrayal of Lucille Frank in Parade. I'm so so hono(u)red to be nominated alongside this beautiful person and artist!)

having some serious deep-and-meaningfuls with faraway friends. (Thank you Skype!)

...enjoying love.

Giving thanks in America for the first time in NINE years at The First Annual Orphans Feast (hosted by dear old, and very dear New York friend Kevin: The Red Strider and myself: Nachnaya Sava)!

...and thus, cooking. Some serious fracking cooking (sauteed brussel sprouts with bacon and home-made cream sauce anyone?).

...and, making some beautiful new friends in such a seemingly precarious holiday environment. Thanksgiving was so so moving as a result of our communal effort and Kevin's generosity with his home and hospitality. 

*

Auditioning for my friends
and
Auditioning with one of my oldest friends....
   ...for three leading roles in one show...

Re-g r o w i n g my fingernail (it is all X-files under this plaster let. me. tell. YOU...)

Walking in the park and The Socrates Sculpture Garden in Astoria (a hidden gem!)

Learning about

Getting healthy

Making peace with the past

A heavenly road trip to The City of Brotherly Love
     which included a trip to the Magic Garden
          a night at the theatre
               and an amazing catch-up meal with my very best high-school friends

Creating beautiful beautiful music with the amazing (and GRAMMY©-nominated!) Andy Einhorn

Getting my new "apartment" sorted out! (how Ameeeeeerican)
     Painting the walls
          and hanging a bazillion pictures

and generally becoming a New York Girl...yo...

realizing I have the best friends on earth-- and trying to cultivate that love and make that garden grow.

Kicking my novel's ass!

Spending the weekend with the AMAZING Oliver and Alexandra Friendly

Celebrating John Cullum’s 50th anniversary on Broadway with The Scottsboro Boys

Holiday decorating! (plus incredible Hanukkah gatherings and a full-Christmas in New York!)

. . . falling . . .


21 November, 2010

Things I would tell my 17-year-old self


Before the world lost Michael Silber and I lost Dad, before Scotland,
London,
Damian,
college,
the 'glittering' West End,
Andrew Lloyd Webber,
Hodel,
Julie Jordan 
or 'Alexandra Silber'  —
     there was just Al.
Seventeen.
With everything ahead of her.

Here are things I would love to tell her now... 

1. It is all ahead of you. . .

2. You are not fat

3. Enjoy the Interlochen magic while you can.

4. The friends you have right now? Yeah. They are incredible. And you will seriously be friends with them ten years from now. You will meet in many countries, cities, in many states of life, and in a few months they will all absolutely blow your mind with loyalty and resilience no 17-or-18-year-olds should rightly possess.

5. Never stop writing to Lady Chu.

6. Frizz-ease. Buy it.

7. You're going to get many many letters from people about how much you and your entire family meant to them.

8. Someday day, A and S will apologize to you. A will pour her heart out in a bar and S will stop you in the streets of London and look you straight in the eyes with her sincerity. But K will not remember. That is okay. All of it will teach you many, many things.

9. Wear sunscreen. ALL. THE. TIME.

10. Someday, you are going to meet Sheldon Harnick. And it will be magical. And for good. Then you will meet John Kander. And Chita Rivera. And Jason Alexander. And Tyne Daly. And Terrence McNally... and they will become your friends and colleagues. You will know the moment when you have arrived. You will be right where you belong.

11. Wear anything you want. Because you can.

12. Don't allow people to pressure you into dulling your colors (or colours) to make them comfortable.

13. You are not going to believe this but you do not know everything. Also, your parents are right. About a lot of things.

14. There is life after not going to Julliard. An amazing fracking life.

15. You are going to eat an omelet in one year. You will be alone. It will be four days before you leave for Scotland in an unfamiliar diner. There will be no need to let this moment haunt you because someday you will feel the thrill of overcoming it. Someday, this omelet will represent a great victory and be the symbol of serious growth and understanding.

16. Keep writing.

17. When your Mom offers to teach you how to sew, do not blow her off.

18. He will be unbelievable—he will exceed every possible expectation of what a young man of 17 should be able to handle. More people should be like him... Al? You have three months. Just that. Three months before your beautiful, tender romance that is currently bursting and full of every joy, every pleasure of spring and of magical, hopeful youth will soon turn very, very dark and serious. But he will stay, for years. And he will hold you, and stand by you, and you will grow up together. You will give to one another and advance through this crucial time in both of your lives. Never stop feeling grateful. Never stop thanking him. Never forget how you loved him or, indeed, how he loved you. And although he is not The One, no one else could have been better right at this moment. Forgive yourself. And never forget him.

19. David and Robin? These teachers are the real thing. They will teach you how to choose your family—and though you probably won't believe this now, that lesson is even more valuable than Shakespeare or Chekhov.

20. That thing you are all working so hard to prevent? It is going to happen. Soon. Enjoy this last year. Go on a lot of walks with him, ask for more stories, remember his eyes and his smell. What seems like always and forever will very soon be gone.

21. ...and seriously. Buy Frizz-Ease.

22. Fortune favors the brave. And you are. Braver than you think.

...as we liked it...in 2001...

17 November, 2010

The Laundry Line

It was funny what happened with clothing.

Sarah, the eldest, would get new clothes as she grew, and Shura of course, despite the difference in their heights and shapes, always got her hand-me-downs that tugged at her and fit her so poorly they had to be completely re-tailored. After the wear and tear of two children, the clothing was often too worn out for Eva, so she would also get new clothes. Shura understood the importance of frugality by sharing clothing, but she so rarely had anything new that was ever just hers— including shoes, which she found frustrating.

Thus, they had their roles. Her family. Her sisters. She was not certain any one of them had necessarily chosen these mantles, it just ended up that way.  She thought of them now.  She had been there what felt like only moments ago.

Second-born and nearly three-and-a-half years younger than her elder sister Sarah, Shura was born in the middle of a scorching summer. “Perhaps that is what made her so fiery,” her mother would tease though Shura’s fire was no joke. Shura was The Proud One. The One With the Quick Tongue. The One Just Like Her Mother— all of these roles got her into trouble— trouble she gave right back to anyone who crossed her. But that fire came from a longing ache inside, a painful disconnect.

She felt passed over, quite frequently, because Sarah commanded a lot of attention as the eldest, the homemaker, the first to wed— and Eva needed a lot of seeing-to (not least because she was such a dreamer, not to mention less skilled in all things homemaking, as well as “the baby.” She had not a hope there!)

So Shura often fended for herself.

It certainly didn’t aide in her assimilation that her other role, The Tall One, made her more conspicuous to any outward eye. Her mother and sisters were small women, sturdy and strong but with compact frames that bespoke humility. Shura’s height made her feel isolated and left out. She physically did not feel a part of her family and people endlessly commented upon it. A langer lucksh they would call her, a tall person, a long noodle.

People would joke, “how could this creature ever have come out of so diminutive a Mother?!” but the truth was Shura had always been long and lean, with slight feminine curves long before womanhood and a height established well before the age of twelve. Her father was a towering man, and Shura would almost have met his stature if it weren’t for her inherent slouchy-ness— a symptom, doubtless, of her colossal insecurity regarding the matter. For a long while, no one could see the developing curve of her breast, or the dainty curve from her waist to her hip, so hunched was she over her center.

One day her mother took her aside and gave her several baskets of linens to hang in the yard for drying.

“These are for you and you alone,” her mother instructed, “and come find me when you are done.”

Shura heaved the heavy baskets into the yard, and glancing upward was filled with the most glorious sight she had ever seen— new laundry lines hung from the amongst the higher branches of the trees, crisscrossing one another like the flight patterns of birds. The clean, white lines heralding hope and ascension. At the bases of the trees stood three little footstools, each one employed earlier in the day by her mother and sisters.

It was a reason to stand tall.

She brought one corner of the freshly washed linen to the newly lifted line and clasped it tightly with a clothes pin. She moved along and clasped the other and stood back. She watched as the wind lifted the sheet clear off the ground, cracking the fabric in the air with each gust.

And as she watched she felt her body lift—her head at first, her back lengthened, her legs taught, her gaze firm, then finally, her shoulders rolled back revealing her chest, her very heart to the gusty chalk-colored sky, her eyes locked on the linen—a flag of pride.

“All done, yes?” her mother inquired as Shura brought the empty baskets back inside.
“Yes, Mama.”
“Good,” replied Mama, not looking up from her chopping board.
“Done,” Shura added quietly, “with all of that...”

Mama continued her work— efficient, fastidious. Clean strokes and expert motions seemingly transformed whole vegetables into diced colorful cubes in what appeared to be moments.

“I thought as much,” she said, relieving the chopping board of it’s contents, “I hoped…” and at once, Mama stopped, looked up at Shura adding firmly, “it will not do for us to have the bottoms of our linens soiled because the lines were not high enough. We must aim them a bit higher, mustn’t we?”
“Yes Mama.”
“Good. A leben ahf dir. [1]

Mama moved closer to her daughter and gazed upward into her face. Her expression grave but still they shared a smile, exchanging warmth from each of their deep brown eyes.

Their fires were so alike.

Ver volt dos geglaibt? [2]” she muttered nodding, “Now come help me with this stock.”

Shura stood tall evermore.




[1] You should live! And be well!
[2] Who would’ve believed it?

12 November, 2010

The day-making Nancy Opel Facebook thread

Background conversation that took place a few months ago:

Nancy Opel: Facebook is great.

Al: Yeah... I kinda love it too. It used to be such a great way for me to feel connected from London with everyone back home. Now it serves the same function the other way around. Plus, I love that you can just think of someone and instantly, for free, let them know.

Nancy: Love.

Al: Wait, question: how is it that you have like four thousand friends?

Nancy:  I friend everyone on Facebook. EV-RY-ONE. I like thinking I having more friends than anyone else on Facebook. It feels great. The only people I ignore are people who friend me from like, a remote island pictured in a canoe or something. That's where I draw the line.

Al: ...A canoe? That is your line? That's not a terribly discerning line...

Nancy: ... [pause] ...I know... It is the line I use nonetheless...

*

Facebook status:

Nancy Opel globe-trotting photo dweeb.

Comments:
Alexandra Silber:  -  I THINK YOU ROCK.
o
Nancy Opel:  -  mwah. I want to take your picture.
o
Alexandra Silber: ‎  -  1. let's! although I'm not very photogenic 2. can we do a few shots... in a canoe . . . ? 3. mwah back
o
Nancy Opel:  -- doing a few shots in a canoe sounds potentially dangerous, with or without a camera....;)
o
Alexandra Silber: ‎...but what if i made it my profile pic? (Enticing?) -- or wait! would you de-friend me?! ;)
o
Alexandra Silber: - PS) tequila shots in the canoe, then photos OF the canoe after... no danger. Oh no. Only good times. Very very good times.
o
Nancy Opel: - I took Miss Baldwin's pic that she used as her profile pic for quite some time, I'm proud to say...took it the day we left for London. And disenfriendment is an unlikely possibility...
o
Nancy Opel: - but will the canoe be ON WATER?...because it does sound like fun.
o
Alexandra Silber: - let's DO it Opel. You are on! Then we can go to Shake Shack after....
o
Nancy Opel: -  SHAKE SHAAAAAAAAAAAACK......the magic words. MY magic words.
o
Alexandra Silber: - Oh yes the canoe WILL be on the water.
o
Alexandra Silber: - PS) this thread is making my day. x
o
Nancy Opel: - Yeah, me too.


Response: Alexandra Silber likes this.

06 November, 2010

The Dying Plant

"Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
Sometimes you surprise yourself.

So Comrade Baker (aka Kit) works for a very interesting company called Aperture-- a nonprofit foundation dedicated to promoting photography. (Do, click on the link and read more about them).

*

Kit invited me to Aperture's annual benefit gala last Monday at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York (complete with silent and live auctions, scrumptious dinner and mingling with people you've never met before. By the way, I've found recently that galas are somewhat like weddings in this way, only you feel depressed about your finances rather than your love life...)
 
At table 24 was sat many a stranger, arty types with black-rimmed glasses, snappy t-shirts beneath velvet jacket and brightly colo(u)red dresses cut on super chic angles (but unlike actor events, these people ate bread). Kit was to my right, and after a long and moving discussion during the impossible-to-talk-over live auction that began with "we're going to ignore everyone and have a long and moving discussion aren't we?" and the subsequent "Uh, yes," we moved beyond; Kit mingling to the right, I to the left.

Beside me was an Aperture board member-- an beautiful older woman beautifully dressed in blue cape who began with "I've never met a chocolate sauce I didn't like!" before introducing herself "Toni-- I've always liked being a girl with boy's name." I smiled and extended my hand "I'm Al," and she smiled back.

Beside Toni was a Photographer, enjoying red wine and laughing with abandon--a true artist spirit emanated from every part of him! Eventually, we all began to speak about who we were, what we did. "I'm an actress," I admit.
"And a singer (among other things)," added Kit.
"Oh how wonderful!" the Toni chimes,
"Oh yes. I'd love to come hear you sometime-- I enjoy live music!" adds the Photographer.

Eventually, we discuss where we were originally from: Toni from Chicago, the Photographer from Los Angeles.
"But there is no city in the world like New York," Toni concluded.
"Mmm..." agreed the Photographer.
"I've only been in this city about a year," I join in, "but it's been wonderful so far. I've been in the UK for the last 8 years and grew up in Detroit."
"Oh!" cried the Photographer, "I was born in Detroit!" he leaned in closer, "but I left when I was six and have never been back. I'd like to go."
There was a polite and slightly awkward silence, as there often is when Detroit gets mentioned. People don't know what to say, what to offer, how to feel. Do they believe what they've heard? What they've seen in the media?
"I hear it is on the up!" Toni said, trying to be bright.
"Yes, I've heard that too," added the Photographer.

I think of Howard Barker's quote:

At the fall of the cities:
Why did we inhabit them?
Suddenly I was filled with a feeling-- a wave of desire to give voice to those awkward silences, to speak on behalf of a place whose roar has been reduced to a whisper, but has soul nonetheless. 

"I love Detroit..." I said simply. I didn't know how else to say it.
"She does," insisted Kit. He has heard me speak of this love so often.


"Did you know that Detroit's downtown is larger than Boston, San Francisco and Manhattan combined? And between 1945 to 1972 there was simply no better place in America to be. A place that was once this Titan of industry and culture, a place where people with nothing more than hope and basic skills could come and make a life in a free and prospering place, have a car, a home, build a life. Isn't that the American dream? A city that used it's then controversial cultural makeup as an asset to build a music industry where one did not even commercially exist before Motown changed the face of music in this country and abroad forever. I don't want to sound to melodramatic or grand, but in all truth it almost seems like Rome or Troy-- a booming Middle-American Metropolis now abandoned with decay and disregard for reasons no one can pin down. But despite every adversity, the people in that place are still some of the most industrious, warm, and spiritually generous I've ever come across. In times like these it would be understandable that people would turn inward, think to protect only themselves and their assets-- this is my family, my home, my life. But what I've found is people turning toward one another, helping one another, joining together. Thousands of young people flock there because they have the ability to start small businesses, art warehouses, buy homes, start lives. There is beauty there: a city with resilient, hardworking people. It's unspeakable. I'm so proud to be from a place like that..." I come up for air and everyone is staring at me. "It is hard to talk about..." I add.

And everyone went very quiet.

"But how could any individual help to revive a city in such distress?" asked the Photographer, quietly.

And in that moment, something suddenly came to me.  "You know," I began, "a friend of mine was recently dog-sitting in Hells Kitchen and the plant-sitter that had been asked to show up and take the plants for the fortnight forgot, and the poor plant was practically murdered right there in the front room. By the end of my friend's 10 day stay there the plant was wilted beyond repair.

'I think I'm just going to throw it away,' he said, sighing, shrugging, his heart breaking slightly, 'besides, it is bad chi to have it around...'
'I'll take it,' I said, holding up the poor little floundering plant in the light. 'I'll revive it.'

'Are you sure?' he asked, 'it looks pretty far gone. Perhaps it is just better to let it go and start again. I think I'll just get them a whole new plant.'
I don't know what made me smart at this.
I don't know why I was so moved.
I looked down at the little plant, feeling it's pain twice-- for those who had neglected it and those who didn't believe in it's ability to flourish after so profound a demise.
'Haven't you ever felt like that?' I asked him.
'Yes,' he said, eyes curious.
'Well, when you did, would you have wanted someone to give up on you?'
He lowered his deep brown eyes filled with infinite heart, and nodded with acute understanding. Then he handed me the plant, his every gesture wishing me luck...
...That is how I feel about Detroit."

The photographer stared at me a moment then, reaching across the table, he gripped my hand.

"I think I'd like to go there with you..." he said.

And he smiled through the thin veil of mist in his eyes, "and I'd like to come hear you sing," he added, squeezing my hand a little harder.

You just did, I think to myself, but merely meet his gaze and squeeze his hand in response.

31 October, 2010

What I've Been for Halloween: A List

Now. When your mom is a professional costumer and you have constant access to the world of the theatre, Halloween becomes a really serious event. Costumes do NOT just come out of a bag. They build themselves over several weeks (if not months!) and take some serious shape.

Halloween is my favorite holiday-- especially spent here in America. The leaves, the smell of autumn, the dark magical quality. . . Happy Halloween all.

*

1. A BUNNY. [pictured. you are free to marvel at my cuteness...]

2. Alice (as in, in Wonderland)

3. Mary Poppins (fortuitous rain made the classic Poppins umbrella really effective as well as functional)

4. Football player

5. An angel

6. Tweedle-Dee

7. The Red Queen

8.  Peter Pan


9. Jem (from Jem and The Holograms)— and yes, I was truly truly truly outrageous…

10. Storm (from X-men)-- arguably the most outrageous Halloween party I've ever attended. A Superheros/Super-villains party on tour in Carousel while we were in Plymouth. It ended with almost universal cast and crew despair...

11. Dorothy (great memory of going out with Dad who wanted to be thematic and asked Mom for help with a homemade Tin Man costume of foil...)

24 October, 2010

Found: Book Inscriptions


Having recently received a full-on shipment of all my belongings from my lost home in Michigan, I took several days to pour over the contents of a lifetime's worth of boxes full of old yearbooks, childhood toys, embarrassing and heart-melting photo albums, trinkets, mixed tapes, love letters and most wonderfully of all-- the books. The books from the vestiges of my entire life.

But one of the most profound discoveries what what lay inside the books-- most often on the inner cover, sometimes on the title page: the inscriptions.


Isn't it amazing how book inscriptions can really mark and capture a moment in life so profoundly? Something so seemingly innocent and off-the-cuff can become a flag-in-the-ground kind of marker post of one's life. This was given to me on my 18th birthday, one thinks. I remember the way his eyes looked when he handed this to me. He loved me once, one recalls. Or, best of all, Oh, how I had nearly forgotten that...

Below, are a few of my favo(u)rites. Important, amusing, moving, or milestones.   

What are some of your best ever inscriptions?

And one for you.

Dear Reader,
Enjoy. 
Love,
Al

*

Our Town by Thornton Wilder
"On August 17, 1999, This book was read by Alexandra 'Al' (she is a wonderful girl) to Jay (an ignorant boy) and she and it changed his life."

Illuminations by Walter Benjamin
14 May, 2010
"Dear Al, On the occasion of the lovely outing, one of my favorite essay collections. In particular 'Unpacking my Library' is one of the great love letters to books as emotionally endowed objects that I know. Love G." 
Tiger at the Gates by Jean Giradoux
March 1999

"My lovely Al,
Idolatry has always been funny to me. Idolatry in myself is the heartiest of all. This play is funny to me because I see myself in it. I see our best friends and most admired people in it. All of these make it a gem that I hope you'll value too. Giradoux. How can you go wrong? Truth. Love. Truth of not-love. All these, sparklingly present in the pages ahead. I think of you too when I read this. Thank you for the smiles and smirks you'll have turning the pages. I can see them. They make me happy. Mostly because they're shared. Celebrate love. Covet humor. Live truth. And please, enjoy this addition to your library and soul. 
Wrapped in love, 
J"

The Ballet Russes  by Vicente Garcia-Marquez
12 October, 1990

"To Alexandra with all my profound love and affection, Vincente"

"To Alexandra, Nice fifth position. 
With all my love, 
Tatiana Raboushenskya"

Honey & Salt by Carl Sandburg
June 2003
"To Alexandra, may the little white bird always fly home to you , and nestle you under its wing. Everything, B" 

Routines by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
3 July 2001
"Happy Birthday Al! Today we celebrate your 18 years of LIFE! You have given us such joy, thank you. .. Love, 'Jom' & 'Jad'"

The World Doesn't End by Charles Simic
June 2001
"To my love, In memory of a beautiful Spring morning, and a secret rendezvous by the lake. Yours, JNF"


Acting by Richard Boleslavsky
3 July 1998

"To Alex on her very important birthday July 3, 1998! Constantin Stanislavsky founded the Moscow Arts Theatre in 1898-- one of his favorite pupils was Ricahrd Boleslavsky; this man came to the U.S (with Michael Chekhov, Maria Ouspenskaya, and Stanislavsky himself) in the 1930's and the Moscow Art Theatre played a series of plays in New York. They stayed on and started 'school' to teach the Russian philosophy of acting, amount their students was Valentine Windt who became professor of theatre at University of Michigan and who taught acting classes and directed shows. Lucy Chase and I studied with him for many years. This book was one of our text books and a favorite! So we are direct philosophical descendants of Stanislavsky and Boleslavsky! And you, my dear, are following right in the line of descent.
Happy Birthday,
LC and JB Stephenson"

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
 2 March 2009
"To Al Silber-- the writer, from L: her common reader"

Eloise: The Complete Collection by Kay Thompson
5 May 2002
"Alexandra, my truest of lovers... Love, as described by Sophocles is like the ice held fast in the fist of a child. I will hold on to you forever, and if you melt, I can drink a case of you and still be on my feet. Always, M"

and, my most treasured inscription,


The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock
May 2008

"To Alexandra. Whose talent is matched only by her warmth and hunger for truth. May you stay forever young. N"

10 October, 2010

Visible Cities: A List

Just a few...
 












"Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little."
 
Detroit (Birmingham)...
...Traverse City (Interlochen)...
    ...Washington DC...
        ...Sheffield...
            ...Alpena...               
  ...Glasgow...
                                 ...New York...
 
...London...

"...what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveler's past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in waiting for you in foreign, not-yet-possessed places."
                                          -- Italo Calvino

07 October, 2010

I've Been...

On Kudish's boat. With Rebecca and the Kud. Yo.

to the San Gennaro Festival + first-ever cannoli + Ferris wheel = a totally surprising, possibly life-altering delight...

Settling in

getting a randomly dark tan in about 3 freakishly warm autumn days... causing Arielle to say "my, you look awfully Basque these days!"

really feeling the warmth and generosity of my friends.

watching two of my best friends get married
...and speaking in the ceremony... the greatest honor of all. 

juggling. literally and figuratively.

committing to New York City

kicking some serious bureaucratic ass

taking photographs again

finishing the book (*girl squeal*)

celebrating Kit's birth

going to art gallery openings (my how chic of me....)

making new friends

singing. a lot.

Self-respecting. (Word.)

planning the cabaret
....and literally dying from the incredible collaborative efforts shared with my musical soul-mate Mr. Andy Einhorn on said cabaret. (Don't miss it! We are such a lovely team!)

cooking.

autumn leaf peeping in the Berkshires

oh, and riding on Kudisch's MOTORCYCLE.... another Yo.

loving my fire escape view of New York

eating a lot of breakfast for dinner

hanging paintings

reading more Russian literature than I can keep up with (thank you public library!)

MO-VING- IN!

really finding and feeling my power again

feeling that my connection to London and the West End is still strong and potent and loving and feeling so heartened by that.

going to the opening of Barbara Cook and Michael Feinstein's cabaret act (along with Judge Judy, The Fonz and Kathie Lee Gifford... fine....)

Getting well. For real. For good.

29 September, 2010

Happy 30th Anniversary to My Parents

As previously mentioned, during the bicentennial summer of 1976, my parents met on an airplane in Spain.

In one of those classic (and almost unbelievable) love stories, my parents were both on individual journeys to Europe to heal themselves-- Catherine from a not-quite-right young relationship, Michael from a painful divorce involving a very young son as well as an existential mid-life moment.

Catherine's parents lived in Barcelona and her summer with them had come to an end. In the airport, she burst into tears in her mothers' arms, having not discussed her inner turmoil all summer long. There, at exactly the age I am right now, Catherine cried while her mother held her, dried her tears and spoke the lingering words "you will never leave him unless you truly believe you can love someone else..."

At this precise moment, Michael was running through the airport. Having missed his train to Paris, he decided to cut his losses and head home early. Searching for the gate, he placing his bags down on the ground to grab his bearings-- and then he saw it: two women, a mother and daughter, one comforting the other in tears. "Beautiful" he thought. And as the flight was called, he promptly made his way through the airport once again.

But they did not meet there.

They met on the airplane after the flight from Barcelona landed in Madrid.

Michael (one of those people who got up before the plane had touched the ground), passed Catherine (one of those people who waits until everyone is off the plane so she can take her time), and stopped dead-- it was the beautiful tearful woman from the airport. He spluttered, his tongue turned to lead, unable to speak, he feebly gestured to the beautiful woman that he would like to let her out in the aisle.

"No thank you, I'm just gonna stay here until everyone is off the plane..."

He stood still, staring at the beautiful woman who was reading a book to pass the time, a sea of angry Europeans fighting to get off the plane behind him. Still unable to speak, he feebly gestured again.

Catherine, starring at the gorgeous, tanned, European-looking man repeated, "NO. THANK. YOU..." she spoke up "I AM GOING TO STAY HERE UNTIL EVERYONE IS OFF THE PLANE..."

"Oh," he spluttered, "I'm really sorry.... to have spoiled your plans..."

Michael stared, unable to believe the lameness of his response, but Catherine found this man so earnest, so charming, and his response so delightfully sweet-- she burst out laughing and did indeed get off the plane. . .

But who would've guessed that Michael and Catherine both lived in San Francisco? Or that they would spend the remainder of that journey Westward together, slowly falling in love in the airports, on the planes. . .

When they got off the plane, they went their separate ways. But Catherine immediately returned home, packed up her apartment and drove to Michael's office the next day.
"Buenos dias," she uttered to him on the phone, "are you still in love?"
"You bet."

And she moved in. That night. And that was that.

Years ago, on the anniversary of this fateful plane journey, the three of us went out to dinner and the two of them told me the "whole story"-- the bits with the fully explored emotions, the little details, the kiss just before the landing... I don't think I'll ever forget the looks on their faces as they told me the story and relived the memories. "Her voice was... like a bell," my father said, "I just couldn't stop talking to her..."And mom almost blushed, her eyes gazing up at him, smiling.

Their relationship, their friendship, their marriage inspires me everyday.

So. In honor of what would have been their 30th wedding anniversary, posts about my parents...


Love. Keeps. Going.


*

8 Years On

Happy Birthday Mom

Father's Day - a list


70th Birthday

and my recent favo(u)rite:

Men of Parts


22 September, 2010

Yeah, yeah I hear you...

...Yeah. 
Yeah. I hear you.
I hear you Nutritionist Lady. 
But look:
There are over 5 jars of Peanut Butter for any possible occasion in the cupboard and...

...

... Sorry, what was that? Be specific? 

Well there's 
toast, 
     sandwich, 
          spoon, 
               celery 
                    apple
                         and cracker. 

Some people drink, some smoke, some people go crazy with chocolate or sweets or cheese... but basically peanut butter is my thing. It is like being a wine connoisseur. I'm a peanut butter connoisseur. Self proclaimed, yes, but a devotee and expert nonetheless. 

And I'm okay with that. 


So I respect where you are coming from but it's just not going to happen...

20 September, 2010

Liarberry

Remain calm. 

As you read this please know that the story ends well. It ends with me going to a different grocery establishment altogether. It ends with me at home eating the one, the only, the superior, the very best of all jams-- raspberry jam.

So.
Don't be alarmed.
Keep calm and carry on.

*

[At rise: Al does a quick late night shop at her local Astoria grocery establishment. It is nearly closing time on a Sunday night, and Al has realized that she, as usual, does not really have any food in the house aside from pickles. This is an emergency journey to the store. There is hunger within her and the clock is ticking...]

Al: Carrots-- check. Celery-- check. Giant thing of hummus-- check...

[she continues down the aisles placing essentials in her basket. She ignores the Halloween candy. Halloween is her favorite holiday-- Halloween candy is the perfect size. She ignores the Halloween candy with a pang. She quickly decides between Ryvita or Wassa crispbread. She picks up recycled paper towels thinking "one good replaces one bad?" as she indulges in a longing glance at the artisan cheeses and keeps walking...]

Loudspeaker: Attention customers. The time is now 9:45 and this store will be closing in 15 minutes. Please bring your final purchases to the checkout. Thank you.

['OhmigodIamnotnearlyfinishedwerenotevenattheyoghurtsection' she thinks. She prioritizes; and rushes to the all important peanut butter and jam aisle. She selects her peanut butter. And then she sees it. There are rows and rows of jam. Strawberry, Blackberry, Grape, Marmalade, Apricot. There are many brands. But not a single jar of raspberry. She pauses. She takes it in. She breathes. She nearly blacks out...]

Loudspeaker: Ladies and gentleman the time is now 9:55 and this store is closing in 5 minutes. Please bring all final purchases to the checkout immediately.

[Al sees a grocery employee and practically tackles him]

Al: Excuse me! Um, you seem to be out of raspberry jam.

Grocery Employee: Right. Well, it is the end of the day. On Sunday. We'll have more tomorrow.
Al: I understand that but-- don't you have any in the back at all?
Grocery Employee: [unimpressed] I don't know.
Al: Well... would you mind checking?
Grocery Employee: ...seriously?
Al: Yes?
Grocery Employee: Look there is a jar of redberry flavor right here. And I hear it is pretty good. It is basically the same. Red berry, it is a flavor but maybe you should just get it? I mean there are only 5 minutes...

[Al is flabbergasted-- 'Redberry'?!! ExCUSE me?]

Al: Eh... no, thank you.

[She proceeds to the checkout without this 'Redberry' monstrosity and proceeds directly to a smaller all-night shop and finds exactly what she needs. Peanut butter plus raspberry jam plus Wassa crispbread = DELICIOUS... Evening complete.]

FIN

*

Forgive me but this faux "Redberry" concoction has no business being a jam. And I resent it being foist upon me. Even with 5 minutes left of the work day, even with both sugar free and alternative berry options.

Redberry is not a berry.
It is a liar berry.
A liarberry if you will.
And oh I will...
 
. . . Don't mess with my jam... just don't. . .

06 September, 2010

Sometimes all it takes is one taste.

love.
I've just returned from a magical weekend in the country. We ate. We drank around a bonfire until 2 in the morning. We Foxtrotted. We played lawn games. We partied like it was 1939. Oh yeah, and Oliver and Alex got married. Two of my oldest, my enduring, and very best friends got married to one another and it was beautiful.

You know? It is an incredible honor to speak in a wedding ceremony. I realize that sounds rather obvious but think about it-- to be the person asked to not merely articulate, but to publicly express, to speak to and on behalf of the love between two people you adore on one of the most important days of their lives? It doesn't get much more exceptional an honor than that.

I could not love Oliver Friendly and Alexandra Boule-Buckley more. Either as individuals or as a couple. I don't need a mirror when they are around so glorious is the reflection I see in their eyes. They make me feel the way we all dream of feeling appreciated and loved by the people in our lives. Living with them last Spring was like living in my own home. We ate Oliver's delicious food (he is a very clever and wonderful and successful chef donchaknow...) and Alex filled the house with music and art, and they were terribly supportive while I found my way in the world, in our Nation's Capital, not to mention to-and-from the Kennedy Center.
They treated me like family.
We are family.
This is what friendship feels like in its purest form. Its essence.
This is love.

And it was a joy to walk down the aisle on Sunday, to stand before the crowd, to speak the following words with an overflowing heart.

Today and always, I love the newly united Friendlys and consider them and their love, a total inspiration.

*

Sometimes all it takes is one taste.

If you ask me, (and, um, you are), I think on a certain level, Oliver and Alex both fell in love at first sight.
I was there.
I saw it.
We all did.
Perhaps the rest of us saw it before they would even admit it to themselves.
Call them ridiculous romantics if you want.
I have.
They don’t care.
Because they know.
They knew.


You see, I met both Oliver and Alex the summer they met one another— 1998 at Interlochen Arts Camp: where an eternal bond of friendship formed with an astonishing group of friends.

It is hard to be young and gifted. It’s lonely— and I think young artistic people treasure Interlochen because it is the kind of place where for the first time in their lives they feel more than accepted but understood.

Plus magical things happen.
Magical things like putting two plays and a musical on in four weeks and Gilbert & Sullivan operettas with casts of 150.
But mostly magical things like multi-decade friendships (that endure not only flighty teenage years, college, and the ‘real world,’ but great distances, personal triumphs, personal tragedies, and everything in between), all based on a concentrated eight weeks once shared together in the middle of the wilderness.

Oliver and Alex met that summer and I’m not quite sure you are grasping this but they are getting marriedCURRENTLY. THEY ARE LITERALLY CURRENTLY GETTING MARRIED. You see what I’m saying? The place is magical.

But the guy who played Sir Joseph Porter may be a big time conductor now but I never hear from him! And his understudy? This Josh Groban character? I can’t get the guy to return a single. email. And I went to the opening weekend dance that summer with some dude who isn’t even my friend on Facebook.

The point is: sometimes it isn’t about the time or the place— it is the people, and they are meant to meet, and they are meant to love one another wherever and whenever it is right.



Right at the end of that magical summer, Alex and Oliver went to a play reading. The night began with “the two who weren’t busy” but by the end of the night they were “the two who were glued to one anothers sides.

Walking home, at the conclusion of both a summer and an evening, they shared the first of many “tastes”— a heavenly kiss they can both still remember as if it happened yesterday. You should watch them talk about it...

They stayed in touch.
They reunited seven years later…
They shared another kiss on the streets of New York in a moment they describe as “plucked from a 50’s film”
And three months after that they were hooked.
So, after three months (okay three months and 7 years)
They realized this was far more than love.
This was it.

They saw through the layers of years
         Right back to who they had been as children.
                  Through all the things they had yet to share.

My guess is when the time came for love? They felt like friends— because they were.

Friendship better than the feel of a sweater you knit yourself, or pulling something out of the over that is perfect, or Sondheim or Comic Book Wednesday or Stumptown coffee or even Portuguese water dogs.
More familiar than all of Debussy art songs or Stargate, or correct knife holding.
Just like a favorite song or recipe, the one you instinctually start when you need everything to feel easy and taste and sound like layers of joy.


So you see, their love affair began with, and continues with, tastes:
dark and rich, full of goodness, and wonderfully sweet.
    … Sometimes so sweet that it gives you Diabetes… but it’s okay because Oliver will cook you up some steak that will bring that Glycemic Index riiiiiight back down again and it will be so delicious that you’ll be totally thrilled they grossed you out.


Alexandra.
You are one of my best friends. One of my Alexandra Sisters. You are dazzling: beautiful, resilient, brave, gifted, bright. And above all, one of the most uniquely beautiful souls that I have ever had the pleasure and honor of loving and being loved by.
I am so happy that today, you are, to quote you, “marrying your soul-mate.”

Oliver.
You are one of my best friends—one of my most enduring, capable, sensitive, brilliant and strong. My whole family has loved your guts since the moment you entered our lives. You have become a man of blinding integrity with an inspirational capacity for love.
I am so happy that today, you are, to quote you, marrying your “wish upon a star girl.”



So much joy comes from watching your friends grow into themselves, find and feel contentment, experience love. In many ways I think they inspired one another to become the amazing adults standing before us today.

That is the kind of love and partnership all marriages should be about.


… And just think, if it weren't for marriage, people would go through life thinking they had no faults at all...

Alex, Oliver: You have already made a life together, and it tastes of joy.

…Sometimes all it takes is one taste.


01 September, 2010

Feinstein's Cabaret Debut

I'm so excited to announce that I will be making my solo cabaret debut at the nightclub of New York City-- Feinstein's at Loews Regency on 18 October 2010.

As you can see, the cabaret will in many ways be a 'musicalization' of this blog-- which is why it bears the same title.

There will be stories, familiar and new.

There will be songs. Of course.
Songs familiar (to name a few: Weill, Kander, Herman,  Kern, Blumenkrantz, Horne, Bock & Harnick and Rodgers & Hammerstein... of course...)

Musical direction will be by the in-cre-dible Andy Einhorn (MD of the famed Sondheim on Sondheim at the Roundabout last season.

See you there...

Click to enlarge - [photo ©michelle & ivan hoo]

30 August, 2010

"...to follow to the end..."



            "...This was a longing she had never permitted herself to acknowledge.
            She faced it now. She thought: If emotion is one's response to the things the world has to offer, if she loved the rails, the building, and more: if she loved her love for them-there was still one response, the greatest, that she had missed.
            She thought: To find a feeling that would hold, as their sum, as their final expression, the purpose of all the things she loved on earth... To find a consciousness like her own, who would be the meaning of her world, as she would be of his... No, not Francisco d'Anconia, not Hank Rearden, not any man she had ever met or admired... A man who existed only in her knowledge of her capacity for an emotion she had never felt, but would have given her life to experience...
            She twisted herself in a slow, faint movement, her breasts pressed to the desk; she felt the longing in her muscles, in the nerves of her body.
            Is that what you want? Is it as simple as that?-she thought, but knew that it was not simple. There was some unbreakable link between her love for her work and the desire of her body; as if one gave her the right to the other, the right and the meaning; as if one were the completion of the other-and the desire would never be satisfied, except by a being of equal greatness.
Her face pressed to her arm, she moved her head, shaking it slowly in negation. She would never find it. Her own thought of what life could be like, was all she would ever have of the world she had wanted. Only the thought of it-and a few rare moments, like a few lights reflected from it on her way-to know, to hold, to follow to the end..."
...to follow to the end...

21 August, 2010

Portrait of a Friend: Jill

Jill as Laura
Jill Paice and I are inextricably linked. Yes, we are both actresses and singers. Yes, we were both raised as only children in the Midwest. But we were initially linked by a mutual acquaintance of ours: Laura Fairlie.

Unlike other big musicals I could name, there are only two people to have ever played Andrew Lloyd Webber's Laura Fairlie (okay, three if you count Anne Hathaway in the workshop and six if you count understudies who went on).

It is a funny thing, long before I ever met Jill, I felt as though I already knew her. After all, when preparing to audition for the role, I was still a young 21-year-old drama student, busy playing 8 men and a puppet in an Ionesco farce in Glasgow. I spent an inordinate amount of time "with her"-- listening to her beautiful performance both before and after getting the role, attempting to be as familiar with Limmeridge House as possible in between classes.

The first time I met her I had not been in London 5 hours. I got off the train from Glasgow, plopped my bags down and attempted to find The Palace Theatre for my very first professional costume fitting. I tried to pretend it was nobigdeal, but in all honesty, I was overwhelmed to be inside a professional theatre, let alone one in the West End, let alone being fitted for twelve not-from-my-closet-or-from-Scottish-Opera-stock-but-made-for-me dresses... for a female character...

From the wig room around the corner came a voice, "Alexandra?"

"Yes?" Oh my goodness, I thought, this was Jill.

"Hi," she smiled so warmly, her hair was wet and tousled, a towel around her shoulders. She had been in the middle of a haircut before the show. I couldn't believe how different we were-- there she was: a willowy blond, Nordic looking almost. She was small-framed with delicate features; but her stance was assured-- full of feminine strength and confidence. A far cry from what felt like the almost childish dark featured Gibson girl staring shyly across from her. Or perhaps that is merely how it felt.

Jill extended her hand, I do not know if she could tell that I was nervous. In hindsight, I wonder if she may have been a bit nervous herself. "I'm Jill. I'm playing Laura right now..." ohmygodI'msoembarrassedhowmuchIknowthatIliterallylistentoyoueverysingleday I think. She continues, "I've heard so much about you and wanted to say hello."

"Thank you so much," I say, returning her hand. "I've spent so much time listening to you, it is such a pleasure to meet you."

Al as Laura
"Everything going well so far?"

"Well I just got here this afternoon actually! I literally just left drama school in Glasgow on Wednesday, so I'm a little shell-shocked if I'm honest." I breathed deeply, and she smiled.

"That is amazing," she said. She was so genuine. "I was just getting my haircut," she said, sort of apologizing, and we laughed, "and I should let you get back to your fitting!"

"Okay, thank you for taking the time."

"My pleasure, I will see you soon. Take care."


*

But it didn't end there. For those of you who do not know, there is an extensive drawing scene in The Woman in White that involves large sketch books. During the day, I would rehearse with the actual sketch book that Jill used in the evening. One day I saw a little note in the book that simply read,

"Hello Alexandra, do you use this sketch book too?"

I was enchanted! It was a message from another world! It felt like George and Amalia, like Griffin and Sabine, like a message from beyond. The sketch book was a portal to communication. I wrote back,

"Yes I do American lady. How is everything going?"

she wrote back

"Well! Is rehearsal going okay? Anything you need just ask!"

and it continued on like that for a couple of weeks.

Cards and gifts were exchanged on her closing, and my opening nights. She stood and cheered when she returned to watch the show before re-rehearsing for Broadway, always gracious, always a true lady. And on her opening night in New York, I sent her a bouquet of silk flowers (learning from our lovely dresser Helen that she was allergic to real ones).

It was funny, somewhere along the line, Jill and I had sort of become friends and only ever met face to face-- once.

*

Months ago, new to the city and overwhelmed by waves of new people, I ran into Jill at The Plaza Hotel, (at the opening night party of Promises Promises). She was there with a legendary composer and we greeted one another with such warmth, like the reunion of two old friends.

"Al?" she called across the foyer to me, and we hugged. " Legendary Composer?" she turned to the Legendary Composer friend, "this is Alexandra Silber. Al replaced me in The Woman in White in London and she is the real thing. I saw her play Laura after I left, and you are gonna see her performing in New York very soon. Who knows? Maybe someday together."

She turned to me and smiled. In a room filled with celebrities and having no idea how genuine anyone may or may not be, it was clear in her voice to hear how much she meant it. I was floored. We hugged and parted in the sea of celebrities and met a few weeks later for a proper 'friend date.'

And this was it: something about sharing secrets, truths and cappuccinos on the Upper West Side solidified what we had both always known, we were not just actresses passing in the night, we truly were kindred spirits. For a lack of better way of articulating it, it seemed we 'recognized' one another.

We talked, we laughed, we shared the intimacies that belong to those who have known one another for years. She told me the story of her life. I filled in the details of mine. My trials and tribulations, my travels, my projects. "What brings me to New York?" something about the way she asked the question was larger than it appeared. I answered accordingly, something made me trust her, despite our lack of clocked "hours" as friends, "I just figured it was time. I felt it. And I needed a change of scenery. And I thought, you know what? Fortune favors the brave."

Her expression rang with astonishment. "...You're amazing." she said softly and when she said it I could not believe how much she meant it. It was impossible to me to be this impressive to a woman I admired so greatly on so many levels. "You are such an inspiration!"

Again, I was mystified. "My God," I replied, my voice shocked, "thank you, Jill."

Most people never learn to be vulnerable, never to be open. Even in the most intimate relationships they remain guarded, closed, afraid. The truth is, the heart is a powerful awe-inspiring force to be reckoned with in the world and Jill Paice's heart is the true inspiration. Seeing her energy fully revealed as she sat before me openhearted, I was moved. She projects a genuine-ness, a kindness, an open, conscious vulnerability that can only come from strength. I wanted to bask in her light, to align myself with that energy.

It was time to thank her. Something I'd wanted to say for years.

"You know Jill, in many ways, The Woman in White changed my entire life, it was responsible for the path I am currently on..." I admit meekly, shy to admit the truth, "and in every way you and Laura, and you as Laura, were the Ambassadors to that new world. I've never been able to thank you properly, to your face. I don't know that I've ever really seen it with as fine a clarity until recently. So thank you for that. I always tried to honor what you had started."

She stared at me. Perhaps a little bit floored.

And that was that.

Sometimes in life we just "find our people"--  friendships form in the most curious of times and places. They feel right. Then seeds are planted, they gestate, solidify and grow.

In a world of disappointments, falsities and insincere exchanges, where people take, deceive and often walk all over, it is important to pause and take a moment to mark when we see a light. Jill Paice is remarkable and has been more than an Ambassador or a person to share cappuccino with-- for whatever people may see onstage, I wanted the world to know that for someone privileged enough to know her I am inspired by her being as well as, but not merely by, her performances.
She is a light.

So.

Lauras unite.


04 August, 2010

...and Whiskers on Kittens...

Tamara de Lempicka
1. Art Deco and the 1930's
Art Deco affected all areas of design throughout the 1920s and 1930s, including architecture and industrial design, as well as the visual arts such as painting, the graphic arts and film. At the time, this style was seen as elegant, glamorous, functional and modern. There is something about this world of design (mirrored by the psychological culture of the time period) between the two world wars that highlights a certain sense and vision of progress, of hope, efficiency, cleanliness and simplicity. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the distinctive style of Art Deco was shaped by 'all the nervous energy stored up and expended in the War.'

2. The Magical, Mystical, incredibly sexy ©Slurpee.
It is cold. Slush-like-but-not-a-©Slushy. Like shaved ice but not ©Shaved Ice. A ©Slurpee is the best of every world of frozen confection-- sweet, cold, colorful and simple. Like snow. With flavor. (In fact, who didn't do that as a kid? Run out to the freshly fallen snow, collect it in a cup and pour juice over it? ... no one...? Just me...? Well for all of you who weren't frozen refreshment obsessed, or are from the warmer climes, I am telling you this trick was magic.) When I was in still at Groves High School in Metro-Detroit (before my Interlochen sojourn), my friends and I (specifically Bill Bradley, Justin Bodary and Katie Battersby) thought that driving to the 7-11 for a giant ©Slurpee was the ultimate in "killing-time-and-aimlessly-hanging-out-which-means-driving-around-the-suburbs-because-we-can-do-that-but-cannot-yet-drink" activities. The pure dietary joys of the DIET PEPSI Slurpee. Not to mention the Crystal Light Slurpee. (Hellllls yeah). As I grew up? The alcoholic ©Slurpee became my favorite cocktail. What is that you ask? Why that would be the MOJITO. Sí. And why do I love it? Um. Because it is an alcoholic ©Slurpee...? Nuff said there.

3.   Carnivals
They are dark magic and I love them. I love the Tilt-A-Whirl. I love skee ball. I love the cotton candy. But mostly I adore the darkly magical atmosphere— the aesthetic ache, the ever-so-slightly twisted beauty of it all. I love it all. I love to share it with one other person. But mostly I love to go alone.

4. Naming things.
Inanimate objects. Toys. Animals. I love names and their meanings in general (Incidentally: Alexandra? (Greek: Αλεξάνδρᾱ) is the feminine form of the given name Alexander, which is a romanization of the Greek name Αλέξανδρος (Alexandros). Etymologically, the name is a compound of the Greek verb ἀλέξειν (alexein) "to defend" and the noun ἀνδρός (andros), genitive of ἀνήρ (anēr) "man". Thus it may be roughly translated as "protector and defender of mankind." Amazing.) I used to own a lot of Baby Naming books as a child, not imagining my own children someday mind you (because I am just notthatgirl), but instead, pouring over the etymology of the names within the pages. It ignited my imagination! Who IS Simon? Isabella? Nicholas? Anders? Ilona? What do they do? Where do they come from? Naming is science, psychology, sociology and anthropology in one. And nothing captures a person place or things better, than the perfect name.

EXAMPLES...

My dog [that I do not yet own, but might someday]: Kevin. A deeply normal, deeply human name without the slightest trace of whimsy. 'Rover' and 'Spike' be damned! 'Ginger' or 'Blondie'? I say 'pah!' 'Bob' or 'Jack' even are so normal and human that they point at themselves-- NO. Kevin is a lovely sounding, but right-in-the-middle-of-normalcy name that when you think of it, just does not belong to a dog. But it will...

My cat [again, fictional cat]: Dr. Rosenbloom. Because.... well, just because. Because the thought of a cat not having a name but a title delights me. Satirical (but only satirical) whimsy with cats is allowed. Picture it at the vet: "The doctor will see you now," the nurse will say. And I will say, "Dr. Rosenbloom will see YOU now..."

5. Trains
Watching them, listening to them, taking them places. It is a throwback to the Golden Age of Travel (if there ever was such a thing... I might have just made that up... but I think it should exist...), it is green, and relaxing and no-fuss, and far and away my transportation of choice. Perhaps, (politics aside--everybody just caaaaalm down) this is due to my unutterable love of the literary character Dagny Taggart. Perhaps it is due to Scottish dramatist David Greig's beautiful play Europe. I don't know. I think a great deal of nature, and always look for ways to protect our planet and let it flourish. But, I also believe in the equally moving and terribly important to recognise the great, often mammoth accomplishments of mankind. Man is capable of both great destruction, yes, and we so often hear of that. But of creation too: long stretches of steel that disappear into the infinite horizons, train cars that move at seemingly impossible speeds, tracks capable of connecting vast continents? It makes me think of everything I believe in. "It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live."

Thus far in my lifetime my favorite train rides have been The Red Arrow overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, the beautiful commute from London Euston to Sheffield (no laughing, that is for real-- travel by day and check out that countryside), and the Amtrak service from New York to Washington DC. Pure. Class.

6. Talking to strangers on all forms of transportation (planes, trains or automobiles... I can't stop myself...) My parents, in one of those classic and unbelievable love stories, met on an airplane. My father let my mother out of the aisle exiting from a flight in Madrid from Barcelona during the bicentennial summer of 1976. Mom is one of those people that likes to wait for everyone to get off the plane so she can take her time exiting. She read a book to pass the time while the anxious and angry Europeans fought their way off. Dad, saw her sitting by the window waiting, and, stunned by her beauty (though he was quite the looker himself), was so speechless all he could do was gesture lamely with his hand for her to exit, blocking a tidal wave of angry Europeans behind him.

And once on the Piccadilly line I saw a young student sitting beside a large, stuffed dog in the vein of a carnival prize. The dog was the size of a human, bright blue and taking up a seat of his very own. "May I?" I asked the student and he moved the dog and placed it on his lap.
There was a pause.
"So..." I said, "what's his name?"
The student looked at me through his glasses with a slight, good-humored surprise. "He does not have one."
"Oh."
"Do you want to name him?"
HELL YES I DID. After all-- I LOVE NAMING THINGS. But then I totally blanked. Nothing was coming. So I blurted out the most obvious choice I could think of-- "Alexander!"

"Alexander? That is a Greek name! I am Greek!"
"Really?"
"Yes, George, nice to meet you."
"Greek George-- as in Jorges?"
"Yes! That is good."
"I worked in a Greek restaurant as a teenager,"  I am sort of proud.
"What is your name?"
I hung my head in shame slightly... "Alexandra."
"Ah I see!"

George told me he was a student studying Economics at one of the London Universities. Then he asked what I did and I pointed to a Carousel poster and said-- "uhh...that's me." AND THEN GEORGE TOOK THE TIME TO COME TO THE SHOW! He is (and was) terribly nice and I hope he an Alexander are doing well.

7. Addressing points in numerical order.
I would assume this one is self-explanatory.

8. Amber
(or, technically, resinite) is fossilized tree resin (not sap), which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. (It has been appreciated by me since 1983 minimum). Found primarily in Scandinavia and elsewhere around the Baltic Sea (it is generally accepted that the amber from the Baltic region is the world’s finest, although the word "amber" itself is derived from the old Arabic word "anbar"); and because it originates as a soft, sticky tree resin, amber sometimes includes animal and plant material as inclusions. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents. (Bwahaha I know stuff about amber because I like it so much).

Amber is used to symbolize power, command and authority. It indicates that rewards come through the productive intellect and the harvest of creative faculties. Wearing amber, either as a stone or as a string of beads, brings victory despite competition and opposition. It counteracts the dangers of loss through law. Looks. Function. Depth. Amber: What's not to like?

9. All things Muppet
Someone once asked me which Muppet I would be and I said this was a very difficult question because there was a pronounced difference between the Muppet we wish to be and the Muppet we are.

I suppose this is same with almost any “if you could be any XX what would it be?” question but therein lies the crux— the operative word here is the “if you could” versus the “if you were.” (I'm not certain if it is clear, but semantics are sort of delightful and important to me. But I digress...)

So. If I could be any Muppet? Tough. Kermit and Grover is as close as I can narrow it down without an extended essay.

But if I were any Muppet? I'm afraid the truth is that I am most likely a combination of Snuffalupagus, Bert, and Statler & Waldorf (They are two ornery, disagreeable old men who first appeared in the The Muppet Show heckling the rest of the cast from their balcony seats?)

...Yourselves?

10. Venice
It is at the beginning of Chapter Six in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities that Kublai Khan confronts Marco Polo about the subject of Venice.
“There is still one of which you never speak.”
Marco Polo bowed his head.
“Venice,” the Khan said.
Marco smiled. “What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?”
The emperor did not turn a hair. “And yet I have never heard you mention that name.”
And Polo said: “Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.”
Marco Polo eventually admits that all his described cities are one and the same city: Venice, his Home. His point of origin. The Khan marvels at this.

So do I. Because it is not merely Calvino's artistry and vision that articulates this fine point upon everyone's individual relationship with their Home, but he defines as best he can the evocative nature of Venice itself in a literal sense. Venice is a stirring place-- sexy, dangerous, elegant, nurturing, beautiful, not at all unlike the many facets of a living woman. And it is as if the spirit of this woman has cast a spell over every one that has ever known her, changed them, then altered them eternally. Then suddenly, and without warning, she disappeared-- and we are all left in the wake of our memories, searching for the way she made us feel, the way she made us think, see, live.. or perhaps just simply to be with her, again. And in traveling to Venice you will not encounter the woman. No. Rather you will encounter all of those who lived within her birthplace. They are stunned; haunted by their lost love. They see her in every flicker of light upon the ornate glass figures. They smell her scent around every narrow cobbled alleyway. Her image is reflected in every canal. Her face behind every Carnivale mask.  


“Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little...”
"Subterranean Blues" - ©Nick Bantock

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