Sunday, August 29, 2010


so there i was on saturday morning, flying through the underbelly of the city on the 1 train with my gigantic vintage purse next to me, listening to public enemy, looking for all the world like it was 1922 - bob wig, lashes, heels, the works. i am surrounded by what can only be described as the unwashed masses. why shouldn't they gawk at me, i remember thinking. i would. i looked like i lived in a time warp. or a time machine.

here's a colorful tidbit: the navy blue dress i wore was a special number that i fought for on ebay like a frackin' tigress. it had this bizarrely conservative off-white/ecru doily of a lace collar that was so starchy and conservative, it seemed anything but tame to my way of thinking. i looked for all the world like a sexy librarian -- my favorite way to dress up.

to be completely honest with you, my dress is technically straight out of the 1930s. when it comes to dressing in 1920s attire, i'm a little insecure about my overall look because i'm not flat-chested and i don't have an androgynous boy body that the clothes seem to require. my decade is the 1940s or the 1950s because my hips and my chest are the same inchwise, i've got a total hat head and -- as many a construction worker in this town tells me constantly -- i've got good legs.

the kicker is that i had carefully wrapped, straight-out-of-the-oven hot property perched in my lap. i entered the roaring 20s jazz age lawn party's pie contest with not just any pie, mind you. i made a sweet apple wood smoked bacon apple pie. and i was really excited about it. so excited, in fact, that i wasn't really wound up at all about the audition i was heading towards at telsey casting in midtown -- the lead role in the broadway musical sister act.

yeah, you heard me the first time -- but i don't mind repeating this one. they turned the movie sister act into a musical, developed it in san diego (i think), ran it for awhile in london's west end with whoopi goldberg in the starring role, briefly. and now, it's time for the broadway run. they had auditions for most of the cast two weeks ago. rehearsals start in january of 2011. interesingly enough, whoopi goldberg produced this. i met her when she was one of several producers for george c. wolfe's harlem song.

renee emailed me about this open call on a saturday -- a blue sky, sun drenched, picture-perfect saturday, by the way -- which also happened to be the first day of the lawn party and the only day for the pie contest. everything happened all at once. i should have been crawling the walls about the audition but instead, i was obsessing over pie. pie! would the crust be flaky enough? did i put in too much sugar? what about the bacon and the tartness of the granny smith apples -- would that combination work?

i didn't even bring my book to the audition. i brought one song -- unthinkable! because if they didn't like what i was singing, they could ask me to sing something else and (heh!) i had nothing else, so that would be that. but for some reason, i wasn't sweating it. pie!

this character is an aspiring disco diva, so i picked my favorite abba song, updated my resume and sailed in as close to the noon start time as i could. not that it mattered. the room was packed. everyone was well dressed and well-heeled and chatty, with just enough makeup on to look fresh in the blazing heat. when i saw someone holding a card that said 205 in big type, i thought, 205 people? i almost left. but for some reason, they started with 200, like a weird checkbook. so i stayed. i sat there, panic-stricken, as #239. that pie had to be on the judge's table on governor's island by 3pm. would i make that deadline?

fortunately, God always sends help when i really need it. even if what i'm agonizing over is something that's as insignificant and meaningless as a pie contest. for lo and behold, my friend mindy sailed into the audition room like a superhero, changed into her vintage attire in the bathroom and took the pie to governor's island. before i got seen, she texted me that the pie hit the table as #9. i was free to panic something else but there was no time. all of a sudden, i was next and then all of a sudden, i was in the room and then all of a sudden, i was done.

i must say, it was a good feeling, stepping into a room full of beautiful talented black women in that 25 - 45 year old age range, all of us our own individual lovely selves. we aren't an anomaly. we aren't anyone's stereotype. and we are legion. i met quite a few who were from the south. two from atlanta, in fact. and one of them had only been here for a few weeks.

who knows if i got the part. who knows if i'm what they want. who knows. it's such a massive crap shoot. and ironically enough, as i've said time and time again on this blog and as is often the case with acting and "getting the part", talent has absolutely nothing to do with it. what's important is that i threw my hat in the ring. i didn't leave that stone unturned. i got seen for it and i did a solid audition. who doesn't love the song dancing queen, anyway? who's that idiot? in a way, the pie contest probably allowed me to relax and not take any of it too seriously, and that usually means a better performance.

oh, and about that pie contest? i won!

Friday, August 27, 2010


i was clearing out my junk room (believe it or not, it's almost done!) when i uncovered a box that had a lot of letters and cards in it from old friends and loved ones. as i began to sort through them, i unintentionally read a few. amazing, the power of the written word. actually, what's really amazing is the power of letters. not emails - letters. it was all so personal and heartfelt and...intimate, somehow. even the most casually tossed off note from my neighbors, thanking me for spontaneously gifting them with pound cake. i loved the handwriting, the little drawings in the margins instead of photos to show me things, the random postcards from all over the place. it made me want to get some stationery and write, write, write.

so many of them were from people that i hadn't seen or heard from in years. one of them, from a friend who passed away several years ago, was so full of love and feeling for me that reading it made me cry - in part because it made her so real, and it made me realize how much i miss her.

where on earth were these long lost friends? what were they doing now? were they happy? did they remember me?

of course, these letters were written before the age of facebook (or even friendster - remember them?) so of course i jumped on facebook to find one friend that wrote an especially compelling letter that i never answered. his name was mo and the letter was a fast paced catching up on his happy creative life in northern california, a place that my arty/guitar driven/punk rock undergrad set in austin texas seemed to gravitate towards like moths to a burning man bonfire. he gave me all his contact information and was looking forward to a return letter. i can't even begin to tell you how badly i felt when i realized i probably never wrote him back.

mo, beautiful mo. pasty as a glass of fresh buttermilk, with hair that looked as though it was cut at random by a blind, drunken barber. refreshingly, he had no tattoos - at least, none that i could see. his clothes were mostly safety pinned onto his lean, lanky frame, and he wore heavy steel-toed boots, even in the summertime. he would dumpster dive for fun when NO ONE was into it and emerge from what i considered to be unimaginable filth, victorious - with delicious things to eat, cute things to wear, fun things for anyone's home.

once i remember him hitting a particularly odd motherlode - more donuts than even he could carry home. (heh.)

the thing about mo is that he was basically a very sweet guy. he didn't seem to have not one hateful mean-spirited evil bone in his sturdy, sickly looking body. he looked like he was an alcoholic, drug addled mess - but he wasn't. he was polite, smart, and kind of a goofball when we were alone. he would occasionally make me laugh so hard, i'd snort. mo was a good time, especially at a punk rock show. i vaguely remember seeing some pretty cool shows with him around. and i distinctly recall that he was respectful of the fact that at the time, i wore a beehive for a living.

why didn't i jump all over him like a spider monkey when i met him? i have no idea. probably because he didn't jump all over me. and anyway, i was so not into schtupping my male friends. i knew girls who befriended guys with sex in mind - they considered that to be an option, somewhere in there. i grew up with a lot of brothers and no sisters, so i naturally assumed that God would give me more when i made my way into the world. sisters, too. and lots of play cousins.

so i found mo on facebook. crazy, right? in our last exchange, i thought, wow. i should write him that letter. so i'm working on what's becoming a not-too-overwhelming package.

now i'm remembering bull, whose real name is raoul, who would protectively walk me home from the p.a.c. at night. and then sometimes we'd make a pit-stop at the hole in the wall and play pool. he was mexican, with a peruvian grandpa i think, and he was from eagle pass, texas. the kind of guy who could build or fix anything. i loved him just as soon as i met him. his hair was falling out in clumps all over his head. he said it was drugs. i had no idea what he meant by that. i thought he had the mange.

he was bespectacled and straight-faced and frank and always thinking of someone else's feelings. or mine. even mine. really strangely super-animated and goofy, in our finer moments. to this day, we are siblings, to the soul.

good grief. i'd better write him, too.

Friday, August 20, 2010

it's official!

as of today, mercury is in retrograde until september 12th. this means that means the planet mercury slows down and looks as though it's going backwards, even though it isn't -- kind of the way the local subway train is neck and neck with the express line and seems to go backwards when it nears its next station as the faster train zips by.

i should say that although i sound like a massive hippie that reeks of pachouli and b.o. and good vibes, i'm actually a penny-pinching, health-conscious, meat-eating vegetarian that makes every attempt to become more and more aware of *sigh* the circle of life *pause* and how so much in the world affects all of us. so, no -- i don't follow astrology, per se. but i'm aware of how the planets and stars can enrich our lives, if we're paying attention. i still clip my plants and cut my hair according to the pull of the moon, the way my great-grandmother taught me. (the farmer's almanac is a friend of mine!) more on that little tidbit some other time.

mercury is in retrograde four times this year -- quite unusual. what kind of a ride you get depends on what sign mercury is in retrograde within. this time around, it's virgo. critical, critical virgo. intellectual, yes. but critical. and whaddya know? virgo is also ruled by mercury, so this should make things especially sticky. and interesting.

everyone i know is dreading the next few weeks, for all the funk that's coming down the pike. there's always havoc in the air, stuff always goes screwy. but i've decided to look for the silver lining this time around. because this time around, i'm not going to freak out when things break down, when the subway never comes, when my phone won't work, when i miss opportunities because of missed calls or when my computer slows to a crawl. i'm not going to lose it if something out of my past rears its ugly head, no matter who or what it is. i'm going to rise above all this stuff and -- you guessed it! -- go with the flow.

i'm also going to clean and reorganize this apartment, clear out that junk room, throw out a lot of stuff and edit my closets. get my piano tuned. find a good seamstress and get some vintage clothes altered for the fall -- especially those wiggle dresses. work on my left hook and my right cross. do a little bit everyday to get stronger, get healthier and get my body back.

that's it for now, my fellow hippies. now, get back on your grind.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

so beautiful

watching Motion Theater Lab outdoors in Harlem w/Renee & ... on Twitpic

this is a snapshot of last night's summerstage performance in west harlem of motion theater lab, dancing under the stars at jackie robinson park's ampitheater.

the event was nothing short of wonderful -- with some truly breathtaking moments. an evening of dance with earl mosley's institute of the arts and motion theater lab that began with a hipfunkinghop dance class, taught for all ages by choreographer calvin wiley. by the time we showed up, everyone that felt so inclined was onstage behind this man who looked as though he were directing traffic in a really elegant way. even people in the audience were dancing!

i love harlem, i really do. it's not just harlem, actually. it's brooklyn, too. but for me, it's harlem. whether it's the architecture, the food, the history that's alive in the streets, the languages spoken all around me by black folk from the diaspora speak everywhere i go, or the vibe that is who we are -- i am saturated in blackness. i can't imagine living in a place that doesn't take my black perspective into consideration, on all fronts. if i did, i'd probably never leave the house. that's probably a part of the reason why it's so hard for me to imagine living anywhere else. this place has really spoiled me as a negress. but then again, so did the atl. and charleston.

this thursday -- gil-scott heron is at marcus garvey park. next week -- doug e. fresh is at jackie robinson park. first the black cowboys, now this. what a cool summer i'm having! more photos later.