08 February, 2010

Los Angeles: Look Deeper

When I arrived on the Pacific shores a few days before Christmas I was many things:

incredibly ill
totally lost

And somehow, in the course of a few weeks, I have come through all of those into a realm of utterly new feeling.

"At the ceasing of the running:
What terrified us so?
At the fall of the cities:
Why did we inhabit them?"

When we are confronted (sometimes affronted) by the state of Screeching Halt, we must do more than simply stop. There is nothing for us to do but be present with the pains, truths, realizations and we must work on our Selves. We must endeavor to deserve the growth. We must work for healing. And it is work, indeed.

There I was: broken, depleted, in an unfamiliar house surrounded by seeming strangers; and all of a sudden terribly alone with my pain for the very first time since my arrival in America.

But this place has greeted me open-armed.
And more profoundly, it had been here all along... waiting for me to be ready to rediscover it.


Los Angeles: Hello.
Hello there.
How I misjudged you.
How I assumed you were not for me, were no longer a part of me when in fact you are my place of origin. My 'Pourquoi Story.' You are where the narrative of this certain Alexandra began, the seat of a personal mythology.
You were the patient Penelope to my Odysseus.
The Eros to my Psyche.

I have often mused about the nature of Return:

A traveler. Perhaps that's it. Though my travels hardly feel worthy of comparison to those of the greats-- Rosalind's full circle to and from Arden, Bilbo Baggins' there and back again. I am no explorer like Vespucci, would never dare to term myself a gypsy nor pious enough for a pilgrim. 

But ahh LA.
How I had forgotten you.

And though I know I am no great traveler of Shakespearean or Historical proportion, I share with them and with us all, a cardinal desire: all I have ever wanted is what we all long for-- a place in the world. A home. 

I feel perhaps like Marco Polo in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities... In Calvino's book, the great explorer Marco Polo entertains an aging Kubla Khan by recounting tales of 55 cities he has visited in his travels. As Marco Polo continues to impart his experiences, he, willingly or un, revels connections between the cities that leave the reader left to wonder whether the accounts of his destinations actually represent different aspects of a single city; a unique and unrivaled place, in Polo's case, his beloved Venice.
You know, it is an odd thing, when we say we Return it naturally implies we've been Somewhere Else. I have more than returned from Abroad. From London. From New York or Siberia or my previous Self or even from the depths of heartbreak or the pits of near self-annihilation. For all my mythological rhetoric I am no Orpheus! And I would never dare to compare with the heartaches of Alcyone. By no means! An Amundsen, Franklin, or Thubron I am not.
I have returned, simply, from Somewhere Else, (a town like any other..?)
Yes. It may still be Wednesday in the middle of our lives, but I am not who I was when I began.
And here in the land of Back Again, one finds they are presented with a second quest: the search for words to articulate the experience.

* * *
It would be impossible to properly articulate the profundity of the entire embracing experience in here LA. It was not merely a holiday, a period of emotional comingtogrips, of purging, of family introduction (complete with chasing cousins over a fence and odd but admittedly delicious Jesus birthday cake). Not simple about geographic re-emergence, touching base with childhood characters and straightforward Reunion.

It was not just a Carousel "do-over"-- a chance to revisit a character I've love deeply as if she is a real and breathing friend. A chance to right many of the wrongs done to her by the London experience, erase many of the haunting negative memories and perhaps replace them with more positive, healthy ones.

It was more than an opportunity to force myself to make myself vulnerable with an entirely new group of people-- people who knew nothing of, bore no resemblance to, either my British life, my Interlochen friends, my Michigan home.

They were new, potentially flippant strangers. One of the things that happens when one is hurt badly by people close to them is the sneaking suspicion that ill-treatment is all you are worth. How awful a person must I be, one thinks, to be treated this way by those I held dearest? I must deserve nothing better.

So. Initially filled with tremendous social anxiety (particularly in a role and in a piece that requires so much of one's emotional vulnerability), I was instantly introduced to an entire company of people who embraced me in a manner I cannot even begin to write... I can only lightly touch it and pray you understand-- it was an embrace filled with deep, real, poignant love. The love of very special friends and colleagues. And how I love them in return for their gift. The love of the pure theatrical alchemy that we all wish we can experience. The Theatre we dream of. The Theatre that made us love it all in the first place.

These people reminded me, taught me, showed me with their unconditional support, love, understanding, affection, that I was worth-y.

And it revived me.
In a city that had always been my home.
It was the ultimate Return.

* * *

A few days after our opening, I felt my heart open fully again. I felt it open, perhaps, more fully than it ever has in all my life.

I drove my rental car up to Melrose and parked across from the Troubador to take a meeting with a casting director. The day was iconic-- sunny, bright, sky a blinding blue; the kind of weather that fills one with the essence of vitality.

She asked questions.
She listened as I told her my story.
Then, after a brief pause she smiled at me across her desk.

"You know," she chortled lightly, "I am from Orange County. I grew up here and have seen so many people come and go, have watched as LA chewed good people up, spit them out. I've watched talentless people come to this town with big dreams, people willing to walk over anyone, to do any vile thing to get there..." she glanced out at the honey-colored light pouring in from her window.

"But you are from here. You were born down the road. And you went away, you lived your life, your had your dreams, you got some breaks but damn you worked hard to storm through those open doors when they presented themselves and legitimately made good. And here you are, back in your birthplace almost by accident and you've triumphed in such an unassuming way. You've come back-- not full of fluffy dreams but full of the real thing..." she smiled, "that's the kind of LA story I can get behind..." and she looked me straight in the eye, suddenly very serious.

"Welcome Home."

It was transfiguration.

Had I done that? Had I? I thought I had just kept pressing onward, forcing forward.

But this.... This conversation in a Melrose casting office was the moment I first began to see through the fog of sorrow and dislocation sat staunch upon my existence.
The murk lifted, and as it cleared I began in that very moment to create a new vision, (though I could not yet, in that precise instant, see it with total clarity).

It began with her words, followed by a warmth in my chest, and at last by a feeling of absolute certainty startlingly inspired by what is normally a rather gruesome professional exercise. Arriving to her typical Californian office block, her words were that of some kind of disguised prophet. And, thanks to V, suddenly this vision had size and shape.
It became tactile, tangible, populated.
And in this moment, I sensed a kind of threshold.

It has not been others who had prevented me from attaining my sense of belonging and worth,
it had been myself.
It had been my own unwillingness,
my own confusion about how to transform longing in to effective action.
Some people experience this with their professional goals
I experience it with Self.
I could sense a lifeline between these points now: tense, like a tightrope.
Something I could walk along.
In the last few years I had lost tension, and wandered without focus, struggling to survive.
And in this moment I knew:
     I will walk the wire.

* * *

Have I in fact discovered home was always there, patiently waiting for me to earn and deserve it? Observing Calvino observing Venice is a reminder of how often the controlled, measured world of knowledge and assumption fails us. So much of life resists the facts. As Khan discovers: imagining a"Venice" is imagining yourself. And though an unsettling exercise, it is necessary, perhaps. I believe my trip [Home], was precisely that.


Goodbye LA.

Thank you for welcoming me home in such an incredible way.
I will never forget how coming back to a place I was unaware had always been my home, my place of origin, transformed a broken spirit and gave birth to not merely a new chapter,
but a new paradigm,
a new sense of life.

I am grateful to all who made it possible.
And I'll be back.
This is,
and apparently always has been,

"...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


  1. wish i could have seen you. really do. i shall call you. i wonder where you venture next... x

  2. Sorry we didn't dine, but we'll always have London. Keep in touch.

  3. Oh, dude! Flying back to LA now. And it is NOT WARM in Texas!

  4. We have found our Quartet. I love you!!!

  5. Эта сова жаждет Л. вернуться в Лос-Анджелес!

  6. gonna miss you lady! simply amazing sister hehe. good luck on your shows! and come visit soon! xoxo

  7. Al, was so awesome working with you! You are truly amazing! Thank you again for the gorgeous photos!!!! xo

  8. mwah!!!!!!!xx oh and ps... I have NO idea what paradigm means!!!!!!!!!!!x

  9. Sorry we missed each other. Travel safe, and Godspeed.

  10. Travel safely my friend!

  11. ---oh and yeah PS; I met Audra. That's right. That Audra. And she was nice to me and i shook her hand and nearly... died. right there. in the hall. (I don't think I've been so overwhelmed to meet anyone since Judy Collins). And I believe we spoke briefly about Master Class and how we have the same birthday...And yeah, ...then had jew food dinner after the concert with Jason Alexander... Fine.

  12. did you do your impersonation of her? I am sure she would have loved it!

  13. Umm..New birthday buddy? Fine that one...

  14. So cooool, Al! Especially in light of the comparisons that have been made between your voices ;) My employer saw Carousel yesterday; she said you were brilliant and had "what a voice!" ;)

  15. aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhh!x



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