Thursday, November 22, 2007

You Can't Go Home Again, You Can't Go Home Again Not

They say you can't go home again. Well, Thomas Wolfe said you can't go home again. I never quite believed it so I put the idiom to the test when I returned recently to my home in San Jose. When I left Northern California two years prior, I found a single mom to be my roommate. She lives in my house on a full time basis and I come and go as I please. I had been coming and going once a month for a year and a half but unforeseen circumstances caused that to stop a few months back. So when I arrived in San Jose this time, it had been after a longish break.

I got to our house after midnight and went immediately to sleep. In the middle of the night, the songbird was calling (I had to pee). I was sleeping in the basement of this 900 square foot house. (The basement is so small it doesn't even count in that number.) I dutifully got out of bed in the pitch black and managed to trip over the suitcase I had left in the middle of the floor. I put a hand out in the dark to balance myself and proceeded to pierce my palm. I could see from some errant lighting from the stairs that it was a Brazilian objet d'art made of tin.


I bravely soldiered on - up the nine rickety stairs that led to the real living space. I turned on the light in the bathroom and immediately noticed blood splattered all over the floor and the bathroom sink. It could've been Saw 17.

"Holy shit. Who was bleeding? Do I have to clean this up?"

The blood spills were getting bigger. It was dripping buckets on the sink and the floor.

"Holy shit. It's me. It's my hand."

I looked around the bathroom for anything and realized that I knew nothing regarding the possible location of a band aid. With my hand frozen over the sink thanks to the dripping blood, I heard Lulu, my single mom, stir. She had apparently awoken because of my incessant stumbling.

"Oh Lulu, I'm so glad you're up. Do you have a little band-aid I could use?" I asked casually.

With sleep still covering her eyes, Lulu answered in her sing-song way. "Oh, sure, sweetie. They're up hear in the...whaaaaaa? Honey, what happened? There is blood everywhere!" Mom mode kicked in.

"Hand up!" she yelled forcibly. I lifted my hand over my head as Lulu ran to the kitchen and grabbed a paper towel. She returned, washed my hand with soap and hydrogen peroxide, and applied pressure to it using the paper towel. "From the color of this mess, I can tell you have enough iron."

Lulu bandaged my hand and told me to keep pressure on it as I fall asleep. As I drifted off, I ruminated on the fact that not only did this never happen when I lived here full time - I never even owned a box of band aids. You can't go home again.

The next day, I told a few friends about my experience with the tin object d'art. Said friends told me that, since I had not had one in 25 years, a tetanus shot might be a good idea. When I searched the internet and found pictures of people with the disease all spazzed out, I agreed with them. So I went to an urgent care facility, a concept of which I had never heard.

It seems urgent care is a doctor's office where you walk in with your insurance card and they treat what ails you for the amount of your co-pay. Well, this particular urgent care was taking its bloody well good time. After waiting an hour and a half (and reading the TIME magazine analysis of Hilary Clinton's persidential nomination campaign twice) I finally mentioned to someone the length of time I had been waiting. She got the doctor on his ass. I thought about the medical profession. Some things never change. You can't go home again. NOT.

I was prepared to rip this guy a new asshole for making me wait. I had seen him on the telephone a few times - not looking at my chart. He had even taken before me a patient who had walked in after me. I was pissed. When Dr. Longfellow entered the room thoug something happened: he immediately charmed me. He was a sweet, jovial fellow. I couldn't help but go from anger to a desire to charm (metaphorically) him back. And I did. You can't go home again.

After work, I returned to the basement. Hoping to have some time alone with my memories, I stood in the backyard looking around and was surprised to find the trees and lawn were perfectly manicured. When I lived in the house full-time, the grass was always mowed but the weeds were so overgrown and the trees always needed to be cut. Now the trees were not bushy, flowers were in bloom, the lawn was mowed, and the yard was clipped. You can't go home again.

I walked in the house, for the first time during daylight, and was floored at how small it had become. For one thing Lulu has low-hanging balls. She hung objets d'art all over the ceiling. it might have been lovely for a 5 foot 4 inch woman to walk underneath those balls but not for a 6 foot 1 hunk of man (poetic license). You can't go home again.

I ran into a neighbor I hadn't seen in almost two years. "I knew you must come back but I never saw you." She is the member of a couple that had recently had a baby. The baby was adorable. Wearing an adorable jacket. She was excited. We chatted and I told her I had written a play and had produced a reading of it with actors and everything. I was excited. She looked great. I looked great. You can't go home again. NOT.

I went to Santana Row, one of the most commercially crass and undeniably faux-European strip malls in America, There was an orchestra playing Christmas music, one week before Thanksgiving. There was a very tall couple. I loved it. You can't go home again. NOT.

I bought a CD. It was a NEW CD. You can't go home again.

Ohhh. No more petals left. I guess Thomas Wolfe was right. At least it keeps this cock-eyed caravan exciting.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Bride's Side: A World Premiere Reading

Denver, Colorado. Crossroads Theatre. Monday, November 5. 7:10 PM. My first play, The Bride's Side, had its world theatrical premiere. It had real actors, a real stage, a real audience, a real tech guy, and a real wedding cake.

Here are a couple of shots of the wonderful actors who performed that night. From left to right (above), I'd like to introduce Russell Costen, Carol Rust, Roger Simon, Davis Bennett, Rhonda Lee Brown, Bill Thompson, Maureen Hines, and Renye Ress* (sitting). Sean Mellot is standing second from right below. These people, between the lines of their own lives, took the time to rehearse and perform this play for the purpose of helping this playwright further develop the work. The memory of our time together is one that I will always cherish. I, first and foremost, thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

The audience was 40+ people. (I think it was almost 50 but my hope was for 40 so I'll leave it at that.) I had spent three weeks prior to the performance posting flyers around Denver and sending out email to virtual groups that I belong to, virtual groups that I don't belong to, people I know, and people I don't know. Amazingly, it worked - I saw some people I know and some that I don't know. I even didn't see people that I do know which leads me to believe that I did, in fact, have a large audience. Thank you all for attending.

It was truly an incredible experience for me to see actors bring to three dimensions the characters that I had, up until then, only heard in my head. I learned a lot about the play in terms of lines that could (and should) be cut by just hearing them said aloud. Even more telling were the comments I received from the members of the audience that stayed for the talkback. I thank all the friends and playwrights who gathered the courage to tell me what they thought. It was incredible feedback that I will use to make this play even better than I think it is now. (Hey I'm allowed.)

It was a whirlwind of a month from my initial decision to do this reading through the actual performance. My goal at the beginning of the year was to write this play and have a reading. Well, I did it. It's funny that the day before the reading I thought to myself that the next time I wasn't going to be so self-indulgent with my goals. Fast forward to the morning after the reading and I'm already thinking, next stop, the coast. If I mentioned which coast I was referring to that would again be self-indulgent so I'll just leave it open for now. And with a little luck, someone else will pay for the wedding cake next goal around.

UPDATE: I received an email from the artistic director of a theatre in Pennsylvania who, based on the synopsis I submitted, wants to read the script. So now I have a week to integrate the changes I decided to make based on the audience's comments. Great news but I thought the stress was over. Oy gevalt.

* I'd like to thank my fellow playwright Renye Ress for her time, experience and ear. She gave me invaluable help in putting this reading together and was the evening's hostess. Check out the Denver Playwrights wiki for information on our next play reading on Nov. 26. Renye's own play, The Magician Auditions, is being read on Dec. 10.

** And Cathy Thomas for grabbing my notebook and writing down what everyone said before the headiness of the evening made me forget.

*** And, last but not least, George - for the cookies, the brownies, and other stuff, too.