Sun 29 Apr 2007
With the vigor of ten men, Josh, Hil and I painted two coats of primer over our dark green walls and two coats of Ralph Lauren’s ‘oatmeal.’ The result is the reduction of the dark light that used to illuminate our cave-like living room. The wood accents now ‘pop’ and the ceiling beams a bright white versus the drab green that some genius decided to paint it. We can’t figure out who in their right mind decided olive green from the base of the floor to the ceiling was a great idea. “They” also did a poor job of taping off the molding so little bits of green still pop out in random places. It took a lot to tame the wild beast that was green paint but now the living room looks fresh and bright.
The entire operation began Saturday at 8am and ended at 7pm. With only a few breaks for food (bad food I might add, pizza, an obligatory salad, taquitos, and ice cream sandwiches) this project took eleven back breaking hours. Josh borrowed a fancy machine that feeds the paint through the roller which is suppose to be easy and fast. It was fast and a nice alternative to painting the ceiling by hand but it took a 1/2 hour to clean the machine each time you needed to change colors.. We had three colors (primer, ceiling white, and oatmeal) so we only flushed it twice. The gadget was not worth the time it took to clean.
With our non-screened in windows wide open for ventilation we attracted quite a variety of bugs. They flew into the paint and were promptly painted into the decor. Hil tried to paint around one little bug but realized that his little legs were mercilessly trapped in wet latex. He was freed too late.
Painting all day would be considered sweat-equity and as the housing market here ebbs and flows we know it’s worth the effort to do it right. We even washed up and made it to a poker party at Katie’s. I opted to save my $10 buy-in and lounge around on the couch staring aimlessly at episodes of Discovery’s EARTH. I also ate a lot of grapes. It was a fun way to end the day.
Thu 26 Apr 2007
The air in Seattle has changed. Every night we smell the heaviness of impending rain mixed with the scent of passing flowers. We continue to walk around the neighborhood, always meeting the same fat orange cat. The other evening Josh gave him the “Rapid Fire” pet: a series of quick strokes from head to tail in rapid succession. The big cat arched his back and dug his front claws into the grass and hung on. His chin grazing the ground he executed a beautiful arch to the ground and rolled onto his back, postering his fat orange tummy in the air. As we moved on, the cat escorted us to the end of the block before trotting back to his house.
We approached a large group of kids on the corner, various ages, from ten to teen–one had a baby on her hip. I instinctively felt uneasy, especially because they were staring at us intently when we approached. “Whatever,” I told myself, trying to look confident.
“Was that a dog?” A short boy inquired when we walked up; he was referring to our rendevouz with the enormous orange cat.
“No, that was a huge cat,” I explained the reaction the cat had to Rapid Fire petting. The kid pulled out a piece of paper and asked if I had seen this dog. It was a classic Missing Dog poster and I caught sight of a cute looking mutt at the top of the page. “Awww, you lost your dog.”
“Nah,” The kid tucked the paper back in his pocket. “I’m just looking for it…for the reward, you know, I need some money.”
“That is a really good idea,” I admitted. Meanwhile, Josh was trapped with one of the girls of the group who kept pointing at him and saying, “Hey, you look like That Guy on That One Show.” She never pinpointed WHICH show it was, although I would have been eager to find out because it seemed to give Josh major points with this young local crowd. We were obviously very out of their demographic, what with being a good fifteen to twenty years older and, let’s face it, white. The fact that they spoke to us at all really cheered me up. The kids told me that if I found the dog I should bring him to the house on the corner, the one we were all standing in front of. I wished them luck and we moved on.
As we walked away I spotted a trio of young people up ahead, a group of twenty-somethings out and about. They purposely crossed the street to avoid us. I guess you can’t win them all in one night on one walk…
Thu 19 Apr 2007
I recently discovered that Tugboat Press reviewed my zine, Kindergarten Underground, in their Best Zine Ever! publication and this is what they wrote:
“Mara does a great job of describing her introduction into the world of elementary school teaching. Through writing, tons of illustrations and a few comics, she tells stories of teaching children and how her job shapes her life. The zine includes the story of a real lockdown at her school which had me in tears. We leave our children with teachers every day and I can only hope half of them are as responsible and awesome as Mara!”
As a result, a tiny zine publishing company in Chicago has expressed interest in distributing my work. Nothing may come of it, however, I’m deeply flattered. This is also motivation to get crackin on Kindergarten Underground Volume 2!
Sat 14 Apr 2007
I have beef with the last one…because I firmly believe we live in a business culture that prefers people to show up to work regardless of their personal health. Oh sure, there are exceptions…I’m not talking about when you’re so sick you have to spit in a cup because your throat hurts from strep, or profuse vomiting from bad sushi, or the killer flu that knocks you flat for a full week. I’m talking about that cold, that goddam cold that sneaks in and makes you feel like total shit for days. I’m talking about that barely functioning level of illness where you’re hacking up green gobs and feel foggy from a sleepless night breathing from your mouth instead of your stuffed up nose. I’m talking about that dragging, nagging, painful level of functioning where you can barely drive your car out of the driveway. It’s the grossly common level of sick where you lie in a grog right before your alarm goes off trying to determine: “How sick am I?” “Am I sick enough to say eff it all and stay home?” (And if you’re a wandering free lance dance teacher who is paid crap and doesn’t get any sort of sick time:) “Can I afford to take this day off?”
Inevitably the answer is NO, I can’t afford to be sick, or to slow down, or to really listen to my body. Sure, I’ll answer honestly when people ask how I’m doing: “Well, I have wicked cold actually…no, no, I’m fine, not to complain…yeah it’s been going around, now it’s my turn, heh heh.” Sure, I’ll sit at the computer I work at part time and stare aimlessly at the screen unable to comprehend anything past my mucous filled sinuses. I’ll pretend to work, gaze off into space, and maybe answer a phone call here and there sounding like a dusky call girl who has smoked one to many cigs. Because, okay, really I’m the one who makes the choice, right? If I’m really feeling all that terrible, I need to just fess up to it and suck it up with a day at home. But how often do you EVER hear a co-worker acknowledge, “Wow, you look and sound awful, why don’t you just go home?” This has never happened to me. Perhaps this is because I work in a “no Sick Day” work environment; a climate where getting a sub for a dance class is like asking Gandhi to come teach for me. People back away from me like I have the plague, covering their mouths to protect themselves from my filth, recognizing the ‘light in my eyes has dimmed,’ and yet no one stops to say, “What the hell are you doing here? Just go home!” Perhaps I’m just a kid and I need permission.
When we were growing up, my Mom always took our illnesses very seriously. We were parked on the couch, unable to get up unless we had to pee, and there was never any TV. We were not allowed to go outside, hang out with friends, or sit at the dinner table until we were fully recovered. There was never any Kleenex in our house, only rolls of toilet paper parked next to the couch and maybe a cat or two to keep us company. This resulted in, (and I’m not kidding), a zero level of ‘faking it’ in our household. Oh, sure, maybe there were a few times one of us may have feigned a little something here and there but I’m certain the sheer boredom of staying home would have driven us to health pretty quickly.
This preservation of my well-being was immediately thrown out the door when I entered college. Unless you had a doctor’s note there was no sympathy from my professors. I learned how to suck it up, bundle up, and show up to class regardless of how sick I was. I also discovered cold medicine. When we were growing up the only thing we were ever given was two children’s tylonal smushed into a spoonful of honey–and this was only if we had fevers. Pepto Bismol, antacids, anti-histamines, Nyquil, all of that was to be discovered in my early adulthood. Oh sure, I dabbled in supplements: acidopholous, echinacea, etc. And honestly, my immune system was pretty strong, so I only got strep throat a few times in college with the rest being a battery of colds and the occasional flu.
When I first entered the work force was when I realized what a harsh and cruel world it is when it comes to personal well-being. For starters, I’m kind of a prone to guilt, (insert Catholic joke here), and the act of calling in sick always made me feel bad. I usually pushed through–as we all do when faced with the option of calling all your co-workers who hate their job as equally as you do and asking if they can ‘cover for you.’ At Starbucks there really was no option: you HAD to come to work. I remember feebly calling other employees flat on my back, my lips purple with 104 degree fever, begging someone to cover my morning shift. I was so sick that JOSH even took the day off so he could keep an eye on me and take me to the hospital if I turned even grayer. I remember another Starbucks employee telling me how she had merciless morning sickness and was still required to come to work even though she begged her manager to have mercy on her. You would think a corporation who pats itself on the back for its marvelous employee benefits would have something like Sick Days to avoid the possibility of phlegm floating around in someone’s caramel macciato.
Let’s face it: It’s more admirable if you show up to work a little sick then if you stay home like a sucker. It shows gumption, resilience, and dedication to your job. It shows that you’re tough, a team player, and have a high tolerance for pain. Nobody likes a whiner and certainly co-workers don’t like knowing the details about how you can only breath through one nostril. If you call in with your best sick voice and ask, “How badly do you need me?” People will sound put out, irritated, and will usually answer honestly, “Gosh, I really have to leave at three today…” I know, because, I’m certain I’ve done this before myself. I don’t want to have to cover for anyone either, what a drag…just suck it up.
When I taught kindergarten last year it was the second job in eight years of working that I’d ever been given the option of taking Sick Days. Still, I only took two days out of eight…and I really regret that. You would think in a climate of well educated, well meaning, teachers there might be an understanding that it would be wise not to spread your germs around. After all, we were regularly coughed on, snotted on, and spit on by well meaning four-year-olds. However, I’ve never seen the ‘just push through it’ attitude more prevalent then in the classroom. The dependence on your co-teacher was so huge, that the idea of them being gone was terrifying, impossible, and down right looked down on. Part of this was that I was only a pion and still finding my way. My dear co-teacher made it her mission to show up to work despite being gravely ill…she set the sick bar pretty high. Last school year was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life, as many of you know…you would think I would have learned a little something like TAKE YOUR FREAKIN SICK DAYS WHEN YOU HAVE THEM.
Now I’m back to my floating world of dance and theater teaching–with more studios in the works. This means calling in sick is a rarity for me. How I wish that the culture of staying home when you’re ill would catch on. Eff you public service announcements with your “wash your hands, cough in your sleeve, stay home when you’re sick” bullshit. If this was truly a philosophy people believed in I wouldn’t be relapsing from a cold as we speak.
BTW, if you haven’t read the previous post and cast your vote for a solo show please do so now!
Tue 10 Apr 2007
Josh is out of town…and I’m finding myself sad and lonely. I don’t quite know how couples do long separations, due to travel, business, military duty etc. In preparation for life as single gal I packed my schedule this week, and so far it has been exhausting. I am doing a cabaret at the Rendezvous on Thursday at 8, which should be excellent, and everyone should come if they’re around. This has meant late night rehearsals with a group of new actor/dancer types–great fun and a nice way to meet people.
I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing another one woman show. What would people like to see a solo show about? This is acknowledging that solo shows are typically pretty egomaniacal, but if done well, can be a valuable part of the theaterscape. I had success almost ten years ago and I’m curious to see how I would do now, as an older, wiser, writer and actor. I feel like I have a tons of stories, monologues, dialogs, etc. in my head just waiting to jump out. Since I’m a total whore for the audience, I only want to produce work that’ll sell. Let’s shove aside the notion that all solo shows are therapy for the artist: I’m in it for you, Joe Schmo Audience Member.
So, my dear readers, what sounds interesting? What would you want to go see as an audience member? Please place your vote in the comments section:
1) All the BS I did with my BA: a rehashing of the dozen jobs I’ve had in the past eight years of post college life. From office jockey to waitress, having my life threatened as a barista, entertaining patrons waiting in line at the space needle as a stood up bride, to importing cars for Hyundai (and meeting my future husband), the list is really endless.
2) A heavier show concept: Women as icons, women as victims, women as examples. This show idea stems from a single solitary moment I had three years ago while teaching. I had just seen a show on sexual abuse and children, and there was a shocking statistic: one in two women will be a victim of sexual abuse in their lifetime. After seeing this show I realized I was teaching eight little girls in my dance class and that, if the statistics proved correct, half of them would be victims.
3) Huge exaggerated characters: i.e. Bad Poet Girl, a character I created years ago who passionately read terribly written poetry (“smooth as glass” was used in every example); Ballet Dancer Girl, vain and weight obsessed, this character would dive into all the body issues I seem to have inherited as a dancer; Obsessed Mother, a character based on the years and years of parents I’ve encountered. There would be an interlying phrase, word, and/or theme running through all of these monologues–so it wouldn’t be entirely random.
4) Marriage Snuck Up And Kicked Me In the Ass: based on a zine I’ve written “So, You’re Getting Married.” This outlines all the research I did before getting married (books on marriage, divorce stats, interviews with married women), the search for The Ring, and the brief struggle I had after the wedding with a flirtatious Murderer in a production of Macbeth I was doing. (The incredulous line, “You’re married?!” would be said repeatedly since I can not seem to convince people I meet that the ring I’m wearing is not costume jewelry).
5) A musical expose of songs that have impacted me at different stages of my life. Starting with my early electronica years of Silk Road (and a disastrous contemporary dance piece for the 8th grade talent show), working through my punk rock years (“Dirty Magic” by The Offspring mixed in with my all time favorite band, Jawbreaker), and moving back to my roots as an avid opera/classical music fan. Each song would have an accompanying monologue and sure, a dance bit here or there, (c’mon, you know you want to see me rehash my spring recital performance of “Electric Youth” by Debbie Gibson).
To quote The Goat: “What do you think, sirs?”
Sat 7 Apr 2007
Yesterday I compulsively stared at my bare arms, protruding from my tank top–the first time they were out and exposed to sun. It was an amazing feeling, akin to peeling off sweaty socks and airing out feet, or blowing on a burn to take away the sting. Seattle, dark and wet, gave us a reprieve with its glowing day of sunshine and 70 degrees. I returned home on Friday with one thing on my agenda: outdoors. Hilevy, Josh, and I lounged around on our front porch for hours and debated everything from Hobbes to politics (very interesting, considering Josh’s sister is one of those easy going Republicans who could possibly be swayed to the liberal side with the right candidate, ala Clinton at the beginning of his reign).
We walked to Mayas and stuffed ourselves with a jumbo plate of fajitas then walked to the sketchy Safeway where large social gatherings around beat up cars were being held in the parking lot. (Josh and I informed Hilevy that last week a teenager fired several rounds into an unmarked cop car in this very parking lot…no one was injured and eventually the police helicopter buzzing over our house at 10:30pm went away). We bought low fat ice cream and then walked a mile or so to burn off our fajitas before eating dessert (at my suggestion).
Every night Josh and I have resumed our ritual of walking two miles a night. I’ve found a lovely route on Waters Ave., east of our home and high up on a hill facing Lake Washington. Here we walk past the last untapped cluster of water front property. Midst the inflated, fancy, houses are several beat down shacks with gorgeous views. The neighborhood is humble, a mix of homes ranging from turn of the century to 80’s ranch houses. One of the homes we walk by is a 900 square foot bungalow with panoramic views for sale for $348,000–a real steal for waterfront property if you don’t mind the cramped space and no yard. This is compared to most property with a view in Seattle that ranks $800,000 and up.
Unlike our neck of the woods, this neighborhood is cleaner and quieter, yet still contains the rustic charm of a neighborhood barely gentrified. People are friendlier, saying hello as we walk past. A fat yellow cat visits us every time we walk past his house–trotting after us for a block before turning back to his front porch. Josh and I ooh and aah over many of these homes with elaborate decks facing the water and wistfully comment how great it would be to gaze at the view every night.
When we reach the end of the long road, we turn back around, and notice how the closer you get to our house the more abandon houses we see, garbage starts to litter the ground (including a huge used condom splat in front of our walk way), and little rat-sized dogs bark and snap at us as we walk by. We become fiercely proud of our home, sitting on our mismatched street; some houses are well taken care of and others lie in a state. The only person we know on our block is the people that sold us the home next door. Cars bumping with bass stare at us as we walk down the street. The more we walk the more of a staple of the hood we become, a fixture of the neighborhood. Every night we pass through a crowd of Polynesians who have emerged into the evening after a church service in Tongan. The men smoke in a big circle while the children play in the church’s front yard. They part for us to pass on the sidewalk, a little awkward and out of place we pick up our pace and walk past them. Our policy of saying ‘hello’ to whoever we pass on our walk is put on hold…we don’t want to interrupt their conversations.
If it is a nice night we sit on our porch; Josh drinks a beer and I allow Hobbes to roam outside at dusk. We remark on the odd design of the house across the street, guessing that it’s had at least three major additions. The house next door has cemented a curb at the foot of their driveway. We are endlessly baffled by this decision: why curb your driveway? Why park on the street instead? Our hope is that they will remove their enormous driveway and turn it into a beautiful front lawn. We want to see the grass mowed too, even though our own lawn lay in a state of wet dandelion infestation for quite some time and we know we’re being hypocritical. We want the bare chain link fences to be replaced by quaint picket fences and our neighbor’s parked car collection to shrink. We want people to use trash bags so that when cans tip over the trash doesn’t sail freely into our front bushes. We wonder why it is so beautiful four blocks to the east of us and so dangerous four blocks to the north or west. Is the water really that powerful? We see homes for sale on our street and wonder who will move into them…
Sun 1 Apr 2007
Yesterday, we took in the infamous Bodies Exhibit. Starting with the skeleton and working up to actual organs under glass, the whole thing was pretty cool. I realized that taking Josh, (squirmy during TV operating scenes, squeamish about looking at Dr Oz’s black lung on Oprah, and doesn’t like facing his own mortality), was probably not a great idea. We zoomed through the whole exhibit pretty quickly.
The place was very, very crowded on a saturday afternoon, which definitely hindered the whole experience. We had to wait in a sort of crowded line to view any of the parts under glass. People brought their kids–which is fine–but c’mon, a two-year-old crying and wailing is sort of the last thing you want to hear while you gaze at an opened aorta.
I really enjoyed the more abstract displays, such as the millions of veins and capillaries in the arm lit up under glass. You know that vein they always poke in the crook of your arm to draw blood? I saw it. I found the fetal exhibit amazing as always, but have to say the one at OMSI far surpasses the one at the Bodies exhibit. I waited my turn to view the little ovaries and general female parts on display. I skipped the boy parts because the whole exhibit tended to show off male genitalia with all their large structures. In fact, we didn’t even see a female body on display until we reached the little reproductive room. I could have done without seeing the pair of breasts in a display case–for some reason that part on its own really bothered me. Sure, I could look at the embalmed stomach with worms, but I felt really protective of the female displays.
The place is dimly lit with cool quotes on the walls, “It is nearly impossible to sneeze with your eyelids open,” and “a pack of cigarettes removes approximately two hours of your life.” If it hadn’t been so damned crowded I think I would have been able to research and appreciate the science of it all. As it was, I had to skim over the whole exhibit and pick and choose what I wanted to dwell on. I found the sicknesses really interesting: a gallstone in the kidneys, tumors in the brain, a cancerous breast, an enormous spleen. All of this was on display as a real wake up call. It showed a body with all of the fat, all the excess covering the inner core. I saw a diaphragm and realized what it means to ‘breath with your diaphragm” in addition to your lungs. I was impressed by the rows and rows of intestines laid out under glass. I cringed when I saw a huge pile of skin laid out–no bones, muscles, etc, just simple skin….made me shiver and think of serial killers.
This exhibit is not for the squeamish. Sure, you can separate the parts with the person, but often you’re confronted with the very realistic looking eyeballs of a body who once was. You can tell the bodies in this exhibit are not healthy, perhaps they really are men who died in prison and unwillingly donated their bodies to science. It doesn’t really bother me either way, since their finality is pretty solid. Most of the structures are just husks, their muscles pulled out in a fan, bones protruding, eyeballs glazed. There is also the ridiculous theme of pairing the bodies with objects, such as a football or a conductor’s wand. I think this is an effort to lighten up the exhibit, but Josh felt he could have done without seeing a body cut in half, high-fiving itself.
If you have an inherit desire to learn more about the body you’re walking around in, the Bodies Exhibit is recommended. Don’t go on a weekend when it’s super crowded. Don’t eat a big meal beforehand too.
Special thanks to Sam P. for letting us in!