Saturday, January 20, 2018

The World is Falling Down

Damnit. This is why I didn't want a website. Somehow now that I've declared "writer" to be part of the stamp of my brand, I feel beholden to this blog. As I should I suppose. I mean, I feel so inspired and can't wait for the creative vacuum that just might ensue post-grad-school. But considering I'm working on a lot of different projects simultaneously while juggling classes and have started submitting for professional gigs, carving out time to sit down and write to keep the world abreast of blogworthy revalations is...difficult to say the life.
Wahwahwah! Life is so hard when you're living the dream.
I guess I can always change it. I mean, it just as easily could have been permaculture enthusiast or bicycling advocate or educator or meditation/yoga teacher. Maybe it will change.
But for now.
I've also had some other writing assignments this week from my therapist.
Processing grad school can be tough, but processing MPVFT disorder can be even harder. I was diagnosed with My Parents Voted For Trump disorder over Christmas break, when my mom confessed to me in a moment of exasperated guilt and ignorance.
Isn't it weird to think of how much you've changed throughout your life, and yet you are always yourself?
I'd like to take this moment to thank my siblings (all of whom did NOT vote for Trump, glad I raised 'em right). As the oldest, I tested out every kind of meanness on them. And they survived. And then they became my greatest teachers.
I spoke to both my sisters this morning on the phone. Yeah. It was that kind of morning. My salt of the earth sister...she's my righteous barometer. And she was feeling crippled and depressed. Over how her neighbors treat their dogs and her inability to speak up about it. But instinctively I know it's about more. New moon in Capricorn? Or...
The world is falling down.
Hold my hand.
Part of the abuses my siblings have suffered is that I immediately texted them after my mom's confessional. Part of me was just so angry she had lied. But mostly it was to call in the troops. I felt the ground beneath me had disappeared.
The election of Ronald McDonald to our highest office was one of the worst things I've ever felt. And I understand that there is privilege in that statement...and perhaps some hyperbole and dramatics. But "one of" is entirely true. And not like Trump true...which is actually false. They're real easy to get mixed up these days. But stay with me.
I started crying when it became evident it would be a tight race.
I didn't think it was possible.
Insert my echo chamber guilt here.
I didn't stop crying for the next 12 hrs, until the results were in and I sobbed myself to sleep like a baby.
Perhaps I could have said more. Did she not know anything about this man???? She never even said "I voted for Trump."
She said, "I couldn't vote for Hillary."
She works in arguably one of the worst public schools in a depressed area in Louisville, KY. 8 years of Obama hadn't changed anything. She sees kids suffering from terrible home lives, illiteracy, anger, mental illness, lack of health care to treat said illnesses, and apathy. Her job is to keep them in school.
With the promise of what? Working factory jobs at Riverport for minimum wage that doesn't cover the cost of living?
She voted for Obama. She was ready for change. She had the hope he inspires.
But she became impatient. She doesn't know how to help. But she thought drastic change in the opposite direction might just help matters. The powers that be could use an outsider to shake things up. Drain the swamp.
The thing is, I think the America First slogan really got to her. We have so much to work on...and we should probably do that ASAP, right?
The world is falling down.
Hold my hand.
I don't know. I mean, I guess she's just ignorant and tired and embittered and probably got a lot of Facebook ads about all the stupid shit the Clintons have been involved in.
How she missed the glaring racism (hello, Central Park 5 + his rental stipulations in his buildings + oh, I don't know...all the bullshit that comes out the hole in his head, aka: the shithole) is very much beyond me. Or maybe she's racist?
Harsh. She's ignorant and has loads of implicit bias and is a product of her environment. Her environment and her role in it both suck. She's marginalized like any woman over 50. Not as marginalized as most of the students she encounters everyday. But struggling, nonetheless.
To one another the other may as well be from Mars. The contempt is palpable. This is not entirely my mom's fault. The system is broken.
The irony is this: it's hard not to turn it into a defense of my mom.
In 2011, I was a teacher in the public schools in Louisville. I had to call the security the day I subbed at Iroquois High School.
Looking back, I made an ignorant comment. It was not conscious. It was more of a Southern witticism that short circuited out of my mouth...perhaps in an attempt to sound funny and lighten up, but mostly to arrest a situation. A situation I didn't know how to handle. I witnessed a young 16 year-old black man straight-up smack a young black woman across the face. Hard. Like harder than mean girl Tiffany Whatsherface slapped me after basketball practice in the 7th grade, when we were having some basic white girl bitch fight because of raging hormones, familiarity's contempt, and well...basic bitchiness. (I'm not just protecting her anonymity, btw. I genuinely don't remember her last name.)
Anyway, it was distressing. And I said, "Excuse me?! Sir. I don't think so. Step away from her. Didn't your momma ever teach..."
Before I got "you" out, the kid was on me. Coming at me, hitting his chest, "You talkin 'bout my momma."
The world is falling down.
Hold my hand.
It was a really stupid thing to say. I see that. I've worked in childcare a lot, and this was soon after the leap into the education world. It's a joke or leveler I've said to lots of unruly kids whose mommas signed my paychecks. Mostly to reinforce momma's rules. Which in my experience thus far had been consistently against slapping people in the face. I've said this to kids of many races...but kids with enough privilege to have parents possibly overpaying for my services via
This young man clearly had no such privilege.
My mom is in this school all day.
There is little to no humor in such an environment. It is no laughing matter.
My mom loves to laugh.
There is angst. And after 8 years of hoping and nothing in her micro-environment changing, she got distracted by a clown.
Like a child.
But she gave me life, and loves me and has been an awesome mom.
Hence the therapy.
Luckily I get to work on a show about civil rights. About our country. Based on Our Town.
When I get to be in the room where it happens with playwrights like Christopher Oscar Peña, I feel like I'm doing something. (And yes, I threw in that Hamilton quote for my mom who knows every word to the musical...she's a conundrum folks). Being a part of something provocative makes me feel redeemed. Like I'm a part of the movement.
I happened upon a Facebook live video of Jim James promoting his new "Tribute to 2" album, and he covered civil rights activist Abbey Lincoln's The World is Falling Down. The lyrics could've been taken out of the script we're diggin into, and this song's had me crying for 2 days as I navigate my writing assignments from my therapist (Dear mom, I may never send you this, but...), and a script where I vacillate between my basic bitch teenage "self" based on Abigail Fisher and a homeless woman who may or may not suffer from mental illness.
I'm grateful to my friends of color who have been there for me through the years...who have held my hand (even when it wasn't there job) and helped me along in my path from basic-ness to greater compassion and understanding.
I'm sorry that somehow my demographic, my own mother, had a hand in electing this madman to power.
I will speak all the truth I know to this power.
Truth trumps Trump "truth."
But part of that truth is that I'm also grateful to my mom...who has been there for me through the years...who has held my hand (even when it wasn't her job) and helped me along in my path from basic-ness to greater compassion and understanding.
The world is falling down. But I'm glad I have you.

Friday, January 5, 2018

La Flâneuse

My final Christmas break from grad school was chocked full of unexpected opportunities for networking. Inspired by one initial encounter during the mad rush of holiday shopping, I found myself at a Staples makin my very first business cards...
now, lots of actor business cards include a cheesin headshot or the occasionally-less-obnoxious commercial/editorial photo, but the thought of my face being in some stranger's wallet made me feel weird and gross. And I have enough trouble keeping my headshots up-to-date as it is; I didn't want to add yet another thing to alter every time I change my hair. Afterall, I have a website now, just brimming with photos of me...the truly curious can have a ball by tuning in there.
The idea of the photo on the business card isn't a bad one. I mean, we are selling ourselves as actors, and our physical appearance has a lot to do with it. It's one of those things where I'd probably be better off to follow suit, but something in me (oppositional defiance anyone?) urged me not to comply. It probably has a lot to do with the commodification and unrealistic standards of women in media which I wrote about last month, and the subsequent frustration with photographs of myself, but I also want my "brand" to transcend my exterior attributes. I want to be a part of and create work that challenges and inspires people not to comply, and frankly my appearance has very little to do with it.
Be the change you wanna see, right?
I added the title Flâneuse to the brand line on the cards and as it turns out, it's a great conversation starter.
The poor amount of French I can actually speak from my time abroad in Paris may entice one to view this self-given label as your run-of-the-mill basic white girl Francophilia/cultural appropriation, but there's truly no better word that encompasses who I am and what I have to offer as an artist. It was also part of the original web address I chose for my first foray in the blog world, which was a wildly popular effort (ha!) to keep friends and family Stateside abreast of my exploits studying abroad.
The flâneur existed in 20th century pop culture as the man of leisure promenading the wide boulevards of Paris. The observer or urban explorer. At it's root is the Norse word for wandering aimlessly...which incidentally is exactly how my grandmother described my blog posts. (At least somebody's reading this thing.) So there ya are.
Flâneuse is the feminine form of the word which was less popular and altogether unlikely when the flâneur became the "emblematic archetype of urban, modern experience." Mainly because the modern woman didn't exist yet. I referenced a great book review I mistook for social commentary in an earlier post, and now I look forward to reading the Lauren Elkin book that expounds upon the notion "that the flâneuse is any determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk."
To me, it's inherently feminist and deeply personal. Walking the streets of NYC helped me healthily mourn the death of my longest, closest friend. From there I went to Paris and Berlin to do more of the same. Hitting the pavement helped me process an incredibly difficult break-up and deliberate the most confusing life circumstances. The first play I ever wrote was about a woman walking the streets in this way. The catharsis and necessity of the physical expression of literally moving on.
The Elkin book review acknowledged the somewhat dichotomous conundrum (great band name btw) of this flâneuse character being at once immersed in culture and removed from it altogether. I find myself similarly drawn to be a part of it all and somehow simultaneously have no part of it. I am extremely moved by and attracted to the human race, but I also get easily exasperated by our mutual limitations and flaws. Hence the move from NYC to a tiny town of 700 people outside Asheville, NC. And the return to the profession of acting but the life commitment to a man who wouldn't dream of living in a big city. And the attempts at blogging but refusal to participate fully in the gamut of social media like Instagram and Twitter (guys I can barely keep up on Facebook and I already hate how much time I spend scrolling). It's the desire to connect but also the fear that maybe the connection won't be enough or isn't what I'm looking for after all.
Too bad this bomb cyclone might ruin my desire to walk the streets of New York City next week. I know it ages me to prefer strolling to scrolling, but so be it. I'll be 36 in 5 days, and weather permitting I'll spend a good portion of my birthday flâneusing Brooklyn or Manhattan.
In short, flâneuse is the most concise way to say blogger/feminist/pedestrian/yogi/luddite/creative.
Because that wouldn't fit on a business card.