Dance mom.

I used to make a living designing graphics and websites back in the 90s. As a playwright who often needed to create her own promo materials, it was a very handy skill. I totally enjoyed doing it, and I still leap at the chance to dust off the ol’ vector program excuse oh OK I am I need to OK sorry I’m in 20C 20 we’re in 21C OK needs an I’ll aisle seat it’s a who ha situation it’s like Tetris

[i was proofreading this while boarding a plane when a row of folks realized they were in the wrong seats, one of which was mine… I accidentally hit the microphone button and now I can’t bring myself to delete our convo]

Anyway. These days I leap at the chance to design stuff. Even when no one asks me to. The last thing I designed was an ID logo for my son’s Irish dancing gear (I was on deadline and fighting it as usual). I made stickers, labels, iron-ons, vinyl patches…

… and I also designed T-shirts with cheeky phrases only Irish dancers would find funny.

Last Wednesday my 10-year-old reported that after four years of lessons twice a week and multiple competitions per year, he was done. I was crushed. Partially because I spent all that time on his design– which, by the way, is not something any other dancers have and is frankly kind of weird– but also, I loved being a dance mom. I loved traveling to hotels the night before, ordering room service at 6am, suiting my kid up in his sharp purple tie and crunchy precise hair, then heading down to the lobby and getting sucked into a swarm of glittered lip-sticked curly-wigged pre-teens smacking their heavy heels together to the music in their earbuds.

And while the multiple conference rooms stuffed with underslept parents fretting over their tense tanned children can get a little JESUS CHRIST, THIS IS FUN FOR LITERALLY NO ONE, WHAT ARE WE DOING, all that pre-performance thrill/terror/fuss is exactly what got me addicted to theatre years ago. At the time I didn’t understand that even a successful career in theatre involves long stretches where none of this is readily accessible. No performances. No opening nights. No pre-show jitters. Just dogged determination and heavy emotional labor that often has very little payoff. But even if I had known, I believe I woulda gotten myself sucked into the swarm. An addict is an addict.

My son also seemed to enjoy all the lobby chaos, and he loved the performance aspect. But he hated the oppressive grueling nature of competitive dancing– especially in a genre where technique is favored over expression. So he pulled the plug, and I almost did that old-school parent thing where you demand your child stick with something in order to build character. “You can’t keep quitting things just because you don’t like doing them.” Except actually, yeah, that’s exactly when you should quit: when the thing you used to love starts digging holes in you that it will never re-fill.

I don’t feel that way about theatre. Not yet, anyway.

In the meantime, what do I do with all the branded materials?

(answer: take pictures)

Voyeur.

Our last NYC apartment was in Carroll Gardens. We were on the third floor. The apartment below us jutted further out than ours, so we used its roof as a perch. Long adjacent courtyards stretched between the backs of the buildings, which meant lots of open space to gaze upon our neighbors. One young dude was always brushing his teeth on his fire escape. Another lived with his mom and wore a hoodie and fought with his girlfriend on the phone every night. One old man woke up at 2am most nights and wandered around naked.

We also had a subway stop near us. The train would rattle the above-ground tracks a half-block from our perch. Our walls shook every ten minutes.  The train slowed down as it pulled into the station,  and we’d get a perfect slow-mo view of all the folks on their way to Manhattan late at night.  Mostly graveyard shifters and club kids. The occasional woman dressed in business attire.

Around the time we moved to the west coast, the older folks in the apartments were replaced by young white women holding newborns at night.  Just like me.

Currently I’m working on a thing with another writer that’s gonna be at a gallery in NYC in April. It’s based on a photo by an artist who’s also interested in such things.  I’ll tell you about it later, but here’s the photo:

From the ‘Out My Window’ Series by Gail Halaban.

… and here’s an except of the work-in-progress. It’s from the point of view of the woman in the aqua shirt:

Apartment in Chelsea. Kid toys, etc. GRACE opens a drawer. Grabs a lighter and a bowl. Picks at the bud with her fingernail. She listens/speaks into her iPhone earbuds.

GRACE
Hm-hm. 
(opens her window, lights the bowl, takes a hit) 
[…] 
Hm-hm. 
(blows smoke out the window, peers across the street... the man who lives in the building across the street is not home yet)
[…] 
They’re all at the lake for John’s dad’s 80th. I had a migraine, so. 
[…]
The entire weekend. 
[…]
Probably. 
[…] 
Hm-hm. 
[…] 
Uhhhh… Indica. It’s for my anxiety. It helps. I feel great. I feel pretty fucking great. I’m like, I dunno. I lost two pounds. I did yoga this morning. I bought a couch. 
(sits on her new couch)
[…]
Yes I did. Yes I did. I totally did. Oh my god, Aaron. It’s soooooooo beautiful. The fabric is called “bouclé.” It means “curl” in French. “Bouclé.” Isn’t that beautiful? 
(runs her hand along the fabric)
[…]
Uh kind of like this nubby woven texture? Like something a cat would claw. Rowr. 
(giggles, moves toward the window with her bowl, looks out)
I can’t stop touching it. I’m like literally addicted to touching it. Wanna hear what they call the color? It’s fucking amazing. Wait. Let me describe it first. 
(turns to scrutinize her couch) 
It’s like… it’s kind of grey-ish beige-ish… but like, delicate? Like a quail’s egg? But without all the speckles? Um… 
[…]
No. More like a warm antiquey champagney oatmealy buff-ish taupe-ish kind of… Ok so if color were sound? This would be a sigh. But not a tired sigh, or an exasperated one. The sigh you make when you slide into a hot bath. 
[…] 
Nope. 
(lights up her bowl, takes a hit) 
[…]
Nope. 
(exhales out the window, looks for the dude... still not home)
[…] 
Not even close. 
[…]
Ready? “Orla putty.” 
[…]
“ORLA PUTTY.” Isn’t that gorgeous? 
[…]
No, a file cabinet is “putty colored.” This is “orla putty.” 
[…]
I have no idea what “orla” means. It’s a nonsense word. It’s a sound. It floats from your lips and flutters across the street and lands at the feet of a dangerous woman. 
[…]
Two thousand dollars. Cash. 
[…]
Well you shouldn’t be. I’m feeling better than I have in years. 
[…]
Because it was the floor model and they didn’t wanna sell it so I paid extra. I didn’t plan it out. I wasn’t like, couch shopping on the internet or whatever. 
[…]
Because I’ve been trying to run into him. Like for about a week. I hit the dry cleaner, the post office, the CVS, the florist. Friday I pass the furniture store… There’s a couch in the window. His couch. The same exact one. And so I walk in and find a saleswoman and go, “I’ll take that.” And she’s like, “Oh, that’s back ordered. You’re welcome to browse the showroom and whatever whatever.” And I go “no, I’ll take that one.” And she’s like it’s not for sale, and I’m like I’ll pay cash. I’m like I’ll pay double. Whatever you want, lady. 
[…]
Why not? It’s my fucking money. When they delivered it I took a picture and texted it to John. He sent me a thumbs up emoji. 
(glances out the window a moment... dude is still not there) 
[…]
Nope. Nothing. Nada. Maybe he didn’t notice. Maybe he noticed and didn’t care. Maybe he noticed and is freaking out, and tonight he’ll come home and close the blinds and never belt another TV theme song from the 80s out the window again. 
[…]
Not a clue. You know I’m making shit up as I go, right… 
[…]
Well yeah. I had to get rid of a couple things to make it fit. 
[…]
Uh, the accent chairs from Ikea, Mom’s old stackable tables, Katie’s easel, the ugly bar cart John got at the Brooklyn Flea… what else… 
[…]
Oh right. The nursing chair.
 
Beat. Something changes in her. She takes another hit.

Bashed.

I’m still recovering from Monday night’s Bias Bash at the Ovations. So much planning, so much smashing. Such a wonderful community of theatre-makers worth celebrating. I’d tell you all the good parts but I’m too tired. Here’s one of the rowdier moments (last five minutes of the show, condensed to 45 seconds):

And yes, that is indeed Paula Vogel in the sparkly white jacket.