Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I finally made it to the infamous Seattle Central Library a week or two ago, when an evening class had to be moved off-campus. I'd heard from a billion people that I had to check it out- that it was a sight to see, etc. That was about as much detail as I got. And of course, whenever people want you to like something, one will naturally be inclined to be unimpressed. Well, upon entering at the ground floor level, I didn't see much to be excited about except that I liked that the wooden floors were covered with three dimensional texts. I wondered how long it would take for the words to get flattened by foot traffic.

Then, winding my way around the gigantic building, trying to find the conference room we were meeting in, I stepped down a stairwell and suddenly entered a giant ear canal. The hallways ceased being gray, and became bulging, red walls curving outward and sideways, like a Dr. Seuss tunnel. I liked it. And somewhere in there, a door opened, and boom, I was in the classroom.

During the break, a friend showed me the library sights, and it was somewhere between riding the lime-green escalator, and staring over the metal-grated railings looking into a five story abyss in the center of the building, that it all clicked as being very, very familiar. "This building wasn't designed by Rem Koolhaas, was it" I asked Jamie. She responded that the name sounded right.

"Of course" I thought. "No wonder I feel so unnervingly comfortable in these gray, industrial walls peppered with high sheen florescent painted floors. I've logged over 1,000 hours in another famous Rem Koolhaas building: Second Stage Theatre in New York- Koolhaas' famous Bank building-turned-Off-Broadway theatre space. The design is pretty fun, but from a House Managament perspective, it was horrendous. There were no walls separating the lobby, theater entrance or auditoriurm, so if someone got up to use the restroom, a staff member had to guide them by flashlight through the darkened lobby space, making sure they didn't speak or make too much noise with their shoes, otherwise, the director taking notes in the back of the house during previews, would complain to stage management. I spent every show having to stand at the top row, catching stray patrons as they tried to find their way to the bathrooms, then shoving them into an elevator, all the while trying to keep them silent. It was ridiculous. But I did love the solid orange bathrooms.

It was nice to recognize the architect that has caused me so many awkward interactions with strangers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reading Story into Ourselves

" Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it even as an accomplishment and a recreation. To those duties you have not yet been called, and when you are you will be less eager for celebrity. You will not seek in imagination for excitement, of which the vicissitudes of this life, and the anxieties from which you must not hope to be exempted, be your state what it may, will bring with them but too much. "
--Poet Laureate Robert Southey to the as yet unpublished Charlotte Bronte, 1837

The thing that's so powerful about story, is, that because good stories reflect truths of the human condition, it's possible to have your own story grafted onto another story. Those favorites books we have, have increased impact as we revisit them every few years. What mattered when you were 12 is different at 17, and world's apart (yet so familiar still) at 28. Good stories offer a chance to re-read yourself, as you re-read the characters and situations. Who do you identify with now that you once ignored? Where is your heart tugged and what seems implicit, that used to be jaw-dropping?

I spent a little time with friends today talking about our formative books. It's hard moving around so much, knowing that many of my precious volumes with underlining and dogearing by 14 yr old and 21 yr old Kj are sitting in boxes somewhere in the desert, but I still found some quotes and narratives to relfect on, and got to hear some new ones as well.

This event, and the impeccably attuned gifting of a long-desired DVD by a friend who understands the sublteties of Amazon.com wishlists, brought about the reamarkaby refereshing, surprsing and heartbreaking exprience of watching Franco Zeffirelli's 1996 adaptation of "Jane Eyre" tonight. It was this film adaptation that introduced me to the novel which affected my life in no small manner, and pointed me to author Charlotte Bronte, one of my founding mothers, I guess. A voice I value deeply, especially in light of her struggles, and the vast differences in her situation and mine. The irony is not lost on me, as I feel myself being "grafted" onto the story of a 19th century governess, while I'm working on a Master's degree. When I was in my Thomas Hardy phase of 2005, it felt almost unfair of me to be reading about Tess of the D'Urbervilles wandering the Wessex hillside, abandoned and abused because of her naivete and powerlessness, while I switched subway cars on the way to my various New York City jobs as an independant woman, able to make choices for my own future. Stuff for women may still suck, but I have more options than poverty/marriage/governess/prostitute. That is saying a lot when you look back at the last three thousand years.

Franco Zeffirelli says he believes women return to the story of Jane Eyre because it's about a woman on her path to dignity. I think that's true. But for me personally, it's also the story of who I was reading it at 16, who I was reading it for scholarly purposes in college, and who I am watching the film now, at almost-thirty, trying to make my way in the world, wondering what dignity looks like, while also beating Jane to the punch when she looks at herself in the mirror and says "You're a fool". Her story is mine, even if it's just because I'm a reader of her story, and thus, a more focused reader of my own story.
Where do you read your story?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Birthday: And It Was Good

Walking into the bathroom first thing in the morning, and finding a sign on the toilet seat lid that said “Happy Birthday”. So much better than notes stuck to the mirror.

“And don’t forget: your face is a stupid place!”

“Hello, my little husband”

Mashed potatoes,
Macaroni and cheese,
Fried chicken,
French onion dip,
Dr pepper,
Cream soda,
Green beans,
Giant generic grocery store birthday cake

Toasting beloved friends

Playing celebrity password

Birthday time on Facebook- virtual plants, birthday cakes and greetings from an assortment of unexpected folks.

Pevear & Volokhonsky’s translation of Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” at the exact day and time I was about to purchase it for myself.

All of it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Yawn and the World Yawns With You...

...Write a book about "The Something's Daughter" and the world will too.

The oldest book in this list was published in 2005, most are 2007.
What's the deal?
They do make for fun juxtapositions, though.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter: By Kim Edwards
The Gravedigger's Daughter: By Joyce Carol Oates
The Rabbi's Daughter: By Reva Mann
The Preacher's Daughter: By Beverly Lewis
The Abortionist's Daughter: By Elisabeth Hyde
The Doctor's Daughter: By Hilma Wolitzer
The Bonesetter's Daughter: By Amy Tan
The Pirate's Daughter: By Margaret Cezair-Thompson
The Storyteller’s Daughter: By Cameron Dokey And Mahlon F. Craft
The Hummingbird's Daughter: By Luis Alberto Urrea
The Storekeeper's Daughter: By Wanda E. Brunstetter
The Quilter’s Daughter: By Wanda E. Brunstetter
The Minister's Daughter: By Julie Hearn
The Mistresses’s Daughter: By A.M. Homes
The President's Daughter: By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The Admiral’s Daughter: By Julian Stockwin
The Florist's Daughter: By Patricia Hampl
The Professor's Daughter: By Joann Sfar And Emmanuel

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On Today's Agenda...

So, my friend Niegel is currently directing part of Suzan Lori-Parks' 365 Days/365 Plays project, (wherein for 365 days starting in November 2002, Parks wrote one play a day for 365 days, and now theatres across the country are performing those plays for 365 days), and one of his plays calls for 365 post-it notes with to-do tasks written on them to be onstage, so he asked a bunch of us for some additional random tasks that coudl be anything from "Pick up a box of cheerios" to "Travel back in time". There are few things I enjoy more than making lists, so here's the tasks I sent to him:

Watch "Taxi Driver"
Place heart on sleeve
Learn Hebrew
Attend high school reunion
Let go of the shame
Mail that postcard
Remember the Alamo
Confront you-know-who
Light a Yankee candle
Ask her forgiveness
Pledge allegiance to the flag
Refuse their advances
Turn off your computer
Read "Anne of Green Gables"
Smile at him tomorrow
Start praying again
Return grocery cart
Call them on their shit
Use some crayons
Buy a big pretzel (with salt)
Sing me a song
Use a bandaid
Accept the crown
Leave wings unclipped
See the Taj Mahal
Write your memoirs
Include three references
Steal the painting
Talk about it with someone
Eat more carrots

Monday, October 15, 2007

Autumn Journal

It's finally Autumn, and with every gust of cold wind that smells of wet leaves, I feel more like myself. I'm so glad I was born in October. To acknowledge the grateful return of Fall and the nearing close of my 27th year, I'm posting something I wrote exactly a year ago on a day retreat I had to go to, but wasn't really engaged in, so ended up walking around, carrying my journal, then stopped, wrote this, then kept walking. It feels appropriate. (and I didn't edit it at all, so don't hate on the lack of grammer too much...) Here goes:
"I’m 27 and I’ve never stopped under a tree and watched leaves fall.

I stopped my walk because I could hear soft pulsing, almost like rain- and it was the drying leaves moving on the branches with a very slight breeze.

The tree has lots of moss on its trunk and branches.

At first, about five leaves fall at a time. It feels like snow.

Then I just watch individual leaves fall- some spiral in tight, fast concentric circles- almost like they’re on a pole.

Some glide- almost fly, as if they are following a smooth flight plan.

Some of the larger and more dried leaves fall in a solid diagonal steady drop to the earth- no swoops or upturns. Just tree to earth.

And some spend lots of time spinning- lifting up, being swooped down and rising again. They take as long as they can before they have to land.

This is their one moment of action- of freedom. Their only time as a single being- leaf, singular. Not leaf-in-a-tree, lost in the oblivion of many,
or leaf-on-the-ground-- mashed mass of wet browns and yellows underfoot.

The leaf-flight is the only time this leaf has a presence of its own.

For some, it’s a chaotic, dizzy spin to earth,

For some it’s a careful, graceful downward movement,

For some it’s as quick as possible- a heavy drop and land.

And for some it’s a playful, joyous, bittersweet spin and swoop- rise up again and again- drawing closer to the mashed brown and yellows below- but grabbing every last possible up-current before the inevitable end.

I watch one fall, land and I pick it up. It’s dry, not yet damp and mottled on the path- it’s bright yellow against these dead leaves.

I put it in my journal and take it away from the rest."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Things that Go Beep in the Night (and other Mysteries)

We're in the middle of the 50th anniversary of the launching of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite. It's got me thinking a lot about what we're used to: seeing man-made things moving in the sky, and things we're not used to: being contained in a very small space while being launched into orbit.

I've heard accounts from people who stared out at the sky watching Sputnik 1 blink across the night, and how terrifying and awe-inspiring it was: "That thing up there is from here..."

And I've gotten so used to seeing things in the sky that are from down here. My apartment in Brooklyn was along the flightpath to JFK, and though we were far enough to never really hear the planes, if you sat on the side of the sofa next to the lamp, you were in direct line with the flightpath and could see green and white dots cross the kitchen window aout every fifteen minutes. They were more frequent than the bus that stopped in front of our building.

But I remember when I flew out to visit Bennington for Accepted Students weekend as a senior in high school, and I was reading "Jane Eyre" for the first time (and identifying with it maybe too deeply), and for some reason, flying back home, I was struck by the fact that I was seeing the earth from a vantage point that such an infinitesimal percent of human beings in the history of the human race had ever seen it. Planes had been around for less than a century, and commercial flights are even younger. Compare that with the number of human beings that have walked the earth. Who are we that we get to see earth from 30,000 feet? My exact thought was "Charlotte Bronte never flew in a plane..." (An early taste of my constant revelations of the obvious, with which many of you may be familiar).

And thinking about Sputnik, got me of course, thinking about Laika, the first creature from Earth ever launched into space. She was a dog, and it took decades for scientists to reveal that she did not in fact die a week or so into orbit, but rather, within hours of the launch. This was probably due to malfuncitons of the heating control system, but either way, this dog must have been very confused. It went from wandering the streets of Moscow as a stray, to being strapped into a harness, locked into a little metal cone, then thrust at great force into who-knows-where, with only the sound of her breathing to keep her company. I probably would've died a few hours after launch also, if I didn't know that all of this was so I could float above the Earth (that, I would stay alive for).

But this issue of small-space-containment, brought me to thinking of another odd creature that I came across in college. It was before this person and I became friends, that I walked into the Commons buidling, and there, at the bottom of the stairs to the dining hall, was a large (but not tall) constructed crate of-sorts, with drawers, video cameras, electrical cords, and a person inside. This person was Garth Silberstein. My memores of this event are quite foggy, and I wouldn't mind some clarification, such as "why did this happen?" but as a freshman at Bennington, I'd already earned not to ask "why?" too loudly, and rather, just to trust that this meant something (to someone). But I recall that we could watch a video feed of this man squished into a very small space, and we had the option of giving him food through slots, or writing notes to him, but he was wearing a blindfold of some kind and earphones with white noise playing, so that he'd have no sense of what was going on around him. Little did I know that the man in the box, would be one of my most beloved people on the planet within a year or so. But at that time, I just thought "why would anyone subject himself to being on display, in a box with no space to move, and no way to interact with all the people staring at you?

But why do we do anything? Why did we send a dog into space? Why do I ignore the things flying over my head? All these things, including Garth-in-a-box, serve to remind me that once in a while, it's important to remember that you are a body that breathes, and that needs space (inner and outer). And Russian Christmas ornaments in the sky, dogs dying above the earth, and men exploring their endrance and discomfort limits out of sheer curiosity and art, all go to remind me that life is worth living with mouth agape.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Thank You For Your Submission..."

Tonight I completed and mailed off the last of the play reviews I did as part of the selection process for an Early-Career Playwright's Program at (not sure that I'm allowed to say for privacy purposes) an important American Theatre. When I was asked a few weeks ago if I'd be willing and available to help remove some of the play-reading weight from the shoulders of the five selection committee members, I was excited, but hesitant. The due date was the same day I have a 12 page research paper and five page psychology paper due, and coincided with more than a few projects in my life that are deep in the development and/or launching phase: how would I have time to read and review plays?

Not to mention, that I've spent a lot of time over the years (and years at a time) reading plays as a fulltime job (though on an arts non-profit budget, ie: peanut shells and pre-chewed gum). So the invitation to step back into the play-reading chair, as it were, held a familiar "This is what I Do!" kind of feel along with the "Oh, Lord, Not Again!" gut rumble.

But the invitation came right on the heels of inner monologues and outward conversations about how much I want to be infusing my school reading and writing, with non-school, culture-active stuff. You can't get much closer to that than being asked to identify if the play you're reading was written by someone who may be the next Suzan Lori-Parks, Erik Ehn or Charles Mee. So, swallowing the fear that I was just responding to a flattered ego, I said Yes.

And it was painless (though two of the plays were very painful to get through), delightful and energizing. Much of the relief this time through, was that unlike my time as a Literary Associate, where I had to respond to each playwright with specific comments and encouragement about their play, regardless of how misguided, irrelevant or artlessly contrived it was, for this process, the focus was really on the playwright: whether or not the play was good, does this person show potential and aptitude for the program? Basically, it was doing one of my favorite things: CASTING! I Love Casting! I love looking to see who would fit in a role or situation, getting to think about what would be perfect for someone, and what someone would be perfect for. I've loved when my jobs have involved auditioning people, watching auditions, or recomending people for projects. And I see this come through as well in how I see friends and acquaintances, and how I can get excited about someone doing something new or unexpected, and thinking and saying "that is perfect for you" or "I can't wait to see you doing that."

So anyway, I got to read 1 intriguing and promising, though heavily-flawed play, 1 hackneyed, over-earnest play, and 1 horrid lifetime television for women play. It was fun. Thank you my friend on the selection committee of unsaid theatre's unnamed playwrights program. You've given me a refreshing blast from the past that feels very grounded in my present. And thank you amateur playwrights, for writing with all of your heart, even though you've clearly never seen a play in your life: without you, I would not have the thirty dollars I'm getting for reading your valiant efforts.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Haiku for the Sad Insomniac, and a Tiny Eulogy Towards Hope

Trying to sleep; What
happened to those nice things I
used to think about?

"And to you I leave
this rock pile. But remember,
it was once a wall..."

Monday, October 1, 2007