Some day, when I’m older and bolder and wiser and stronger, I will explain what the significance of this was, and why I did it when I did it. But for now, it is good enough for me to say that I did, and that I like it, and that day was a good day.
Some day, when I’m older and bolder and wiser and stronger, I will explain what the significance of this was, and why I did it when I did it. But for now, it is good enough for me to say that I did, and that I like it, and that day was a good day.
This weekend I went mostly on a whim to see The Hypocrites’ production of Coriolanus in Chicago. Then, thanks to some connections, I got to have a “few” drinks (ahem) with some of the cast, who wound up being a group of really, really cool guys.
It was a really odd (but awesome) experience having the same arguments about Shakespeare that I’ve had at home a million times in a different bar and with different people, but they all spoke my language. That was the best part. I speak Shakespeare, and so I can make friends.
It was also interesting talking with the cast because I have a little bit of show/theatre/company/actor envy, and to me, these guys were absolute rock stars. They did the one thing I was never exactly brave enough to do, they moved to Chicago to pursue acting…and they are acting, in a phenomenally produced play in a company I would give both of my hands to do some Shakespeare with. (heh heh. I’m hilarious).
But the glorious thing, the thing that made me smile when I went to bed is that I went out with a group of rockstar Shakespearan actors…and left knowing a high school math teacher, a waiter, a customer service rep and…a something. Who also happen to be rockstar Shakespearean actors…but the necessity of a day job is felt and recognized in this fabulous group of actors. I felt…better about my life.
I do, however, have massive theatre envy. Seriously. The Hypocrites perform, currently, at the Chopin Theatre in North Chicago, and the place is incredible. It’s somewhere between walking into Moulin Rouge crossed with a fortune teller’s waiting room crossed with a soda fountain from a Dr. Suess book– and that’s just the waiting area.
The actual theatre is in the basement, and what they have done with the space borders on magical. As much as I am determined to define myself as “an actor”, the truth is that I will spend just as much time watching as show as I will counting instruments and mapping out grid lines in my head, and I was a happy, happy girl. Low ceilings are a bitch to work with, and not a fuck was given about them during this production.
The show itself was fantastic and I was many times inspired, and many, many times reminded why I do this– why, as an awkward college student looking to find her place, I stumbled half-heartedly into Shakespeare and never looked back. This show was a reminder of that, of how staging and passion and fire can come together to tell a story 400 years old and still make it interesting.
Sure, the show had its problems– I thought the cut (1:45 running time, no intermission) was good, but there were times when things just happened for the sake of the cliff notes, and I missed the moments of lead-up and intent. Also, there was a hideous, hideous chevron dress that the poor actress playing Virgilia was forced to wear– I’ve been on the short end of the costume stick more than once in my life, so I felt for her.
Seeing the show would have been enough, but the aforementioned drinks session afterwards made for a very excellent Saturday.
And that would have been enough.
However, on Sunday, I also wound up getting to sword fight in the park.
I’m going to be really honest– I’m not very good. And I know that. I’ve got loads to learn, my technique is intrinsically flawed, I’m sloppy and I spend more time apologizing then I do actually fighting.
I don’t know what it is, and I don’t really understand it, and I actually feel really lame admitting this, but there is a part of me that is intrinsically drawn to it. It just…makes sense in my head.
Part of it is the work. I’m used to being good at things. I’m used to things coming easily and being immediately successful. And I am not that with a sword in my hand. I’m awkward and usually confused and thinking– very hard– about just what it is that I’m doing. I get corrected, snapped at, occasionally mocked and constantly reminded that I have no idea what I’m doing, and I love that. Because I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be perfect– I want to be, so I am usually incredibly frustrated, but my frustrations are not about how I look or what size my jeans are or what I forgot to do at work today, my frustrations are about my shitty blocks and keeping my edge facing the right way.
And that is the best part. My mind is never quiet. Ever. I’ve talked enough about my various and annoying health problems and fear of cheeseburgers, but I have noticed that when I am holding a sword (or two swords, or a dagger…) that I’m not afraid of cheeseburgers, or really, anything. I have never been graceful. I have never been a dancer, nor, really, except for a brief period while I was 8, have I wanted to be. I’m stocky and grounded and I can move decently, but with a sword, I feel…awesome. I feel graceful.
The bonus part of all of this was that I also choreographed my first fight. I learned more in an hour than I did in a semester of stage combat…and learned, mostly, that I have a lot to learn. My notation sucks, I’m bad at communicating and I have a bad, bad habit of apologizing as frequenty as I give directions.
But still. I did it. Kind of.
It’s silly and dumb and really, kind of trite, but it’s true,and I accept that about myself. Sometimes, I’m silly and dumb, but that’s not going to stop me from loving every sweaty, frustrating and mistake-filled moment of it. And I know I’ve talked about this before, but it still just..amazes me that something as simple as footwork and the connection between my elbow and my brain is the one thing in this world that makes everything okay, even just for an hour.
I have a job now that I love. It’s pretty fantastic, overall. There are parts that suck, like any real job, but for the most part, I love it. I’m good at it, I haven’t biffed too many things, the people I work with are awesome and, despite some sometimes late nights, it’s…well, it’s really awesome, and I know that I am really, really lucky.
This morning, I woke up and went to work. One of the little perks of my job is that I have to walk from my office to other parts of the facility, and so I decided to walk outside. As I was walking, I was thinking about everything that happened this weekend– the great show, the fighting, the hanging out with good friends, the weather, generally how much my job does not suck, and I felt…weird.
And I suddenly realized that I was smiling. And that for no reason other than the fact that I am alive to experience this beautiful, wonderful world, I am happy. Happy that I get to live a life with drinks with Shakespearean rock stars and late night discussions about the reletive merits of Titus Andronicus and swordfights and planning for next season and amazing friends and being just, so very, very lucky.
I am not used to being happy.
That sounds sad and depressing, but I don’t mean that I am constantly depressed– I just mean that that giggly, bubbly, spontaneous happy is usually something I plan, or look forward to- rehearsals, performances, designing posters, website building– these are the things that make me happy, that I choose to do because I love doing them– but being just…contentedly happy for no reason is a new thing.
And you know what? I don’t mind it at all.
Somewhere between February and March, I got the itch.
That same, familiar “I need to do something else” itch, the itch that leaves me searching for Shakespeare festival auditions and dream jobs at 1AM and then talking myself back out of applying by 2.
Only this time, I found a job that I thought I might be good at, one that played to (some) of my strengths, and in a whirlwind of an application and 2 interviews the same week, I was offered the job.
Suddenly, I was a big kid. Thrust into a world of spreadsheets and deadlines and criticism on the casual nature of my tennis shoes, I am suddenly a member of corporate America, barely trained and holding on for dear life.
In the middle of all of this, I was directing a play. And not just a play, I was directing Antigone, a play that still, even years after my first reading, still moves me and inspires me every time I hear it…and there I was, directing it, and, to add to the significance, directing my best friends.
I’d not blogged about the directing aspect because most of directing is private– annoyances at actors, personal frustrations at the lack of comprehension, irritation at lateness, uninteresting paperwork and scheduling– boring stuff, stuff meant for the private world, not here, on this blog.
So you may have noticed I disappeared.
Time spent writing became time that I could spend eating, or napping, or finishing correspondence or a hundred other things I hadn’t gotten to just yet but needed to.
It’s been an exhausting few weeks.
The dualities of a new job and directing are challenging, but not impossible. Sleep is lacking, there are tears and frustrations and over-sensitivities to, well, everything, but somehow, I made it. Not because of my own personal strength, that much must be made clear– it was never because of me. It was because of the people around me, my friends, who kept me sane and focused and hugged me, even when I was too tired to ask– it wasn’t magic or sheer strength of will– it was my friends unquestionably being there that made this show happen.
This weekend, my show opened and I worked my first event at my new job. Two beginnings.
The show went up, as shows often do, and people came, and people said nice things about it and everything was okay, even though I never ironed the curtains and the address was wrong on the posters and a hundred other little things, but at the end of the night I went to bed satisfied, then woke up and went to work.
And my job went just as well. There were things forgotten and things misplaced and I got punched and there were four arrests, but at the end of the night, I locked up and drove to the theatre where my friends were waiting for me.
By day, I wear fancy clothes and talk in my professional voice and take memos, by night, it’s sweatpants and climbing ladders and swearing to get the point across, and I fit– comfortably– in both worlds.
Today I had the day off of work– the benefit of working a Saturday is your Monday is free– and all day, I had this grey cloud about my new job– even in the same breath of telling people how much I enjoy it, I can feel the hesitancy.
Today I realized why. I still get audition notices in my inbox– three this week, in fact, and more last week– and I know that I will always, always keep looking at audition postings. I will always have that choice, that blasted temptation— and what I had forgotten to do, in the whirlwind of everything, was mourn the passing of that period in my life, where I could take off on a whim and audition for whatever thing I wanted. That’s gone now– at least, for awhile, and in the whirlwind of change. I forgot to accept that, so trivial inabilities to meet for lunch or do things before 5pm have become huge mountains of anger and frustration, which, admittedly, is just dumb.
And now, along with audition emails, I get emails asking about spreadsheets and check requests on my day off. It’s the nature of what I do, and I accept it, but I do not like it. I have never been good at delegating, and even worse at separating, and now, I absolutely have to, or this job could easily seep into my “real life”, and that, simply, cannot happen for the sheer practicality that I cannot do both at once.
I can be one person at a time, and that is the limit. Professional Catie in her suits is a separate entity from Catie the Shakespeare Nerd and narry the two shall meet.
I am a person who loves certain, particular things with a wholehearted passion, but the ironic (or at least, unfortunate) part of the love story is that I seem to fall in love with the those hobbies and interests that have the lowest rates of pay.
And so, I made a choice. For now, at least, I will wear my big kid pants. I’ve been fortuanate enough to find a job that I like, and that seems to fit well, but I know that there is a long, long, learning curve ahead. And I am hard on myself. An email suggestion about a more practical scheduling solution to me reads like a warning that I’m getting fired tomorrow, and that is really, really hard. Because I’m the new kid, and I make mistakes and I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m just trying really, really hard to keep up…and I hate that feeling of inadequacy, because I am damn good at the things that I do when I’m not at the office, and so it doesn’t fit with the rest of my life when I don’t get how check requests work.
In time, it will come, and it will be second nature. I know that, and I am excited for that. But there will always be a part of me that peeks at summerstock auditions and wonders.
I am not ashamed of my choice, because my choice was responsible, and necessary. A living wage and health insurance has to trump five-hour unpaid drives to auditions at some point.
But what I keep reminding myself is that this isn’t an ending, per say. I will always have outside hobbies and outside interests. Florescent lights and a desk will become climbing 20-foot ladders to get to the par cans by night because that is how it has to be.
I am starting to know myself. It’s weird, and it’s happened rather suddenly, but I think between this new job and this play, I realized some things about myself, and one of them is that I have to keep doing this. I am, at the core, a person who thrives on late nights arguing about King Lear, and I cannot accept a life without, at least, that much creativity.
And so, tomorrow I will go to work, and learn new things and hopefully, start to get a handle on just what it is I’m doing, and I will enjoy it. I will send reports and do official office type things, and then, at 5, I will turn off the lights, shut my office door, and drive to rehearsal, where my real day will begin.
Someone jokingly sent this to me as a suggestion for my blog a day project.
What they did not know, is that, in all seriousness, I take bananas very seriously.
When I was a kid, I hated fruits and vegetables, and I generally refused to eat them whenever I got the chance. My dad, however, figured out that if he made it “cool” to eat fruit, then I would play along, wanting to be “cool” like my dad.
It is also important to note that my dad was a traditionalist, and was the type of guy who would eat the same thing, every day, because, well, “That’s just what he liked”.
Every day, before school, my dad would make himself a breakfast of either a bowl of plain cheerios or a bowl of plain rice chex. If he was feeling particularly fancy, he might make an egg or two, but generally, he stuck to cereal and one important side-dish– a banana.
Now, my dad was really, really particular about his bananas. As a kid, I remember endless fights between my mom and dad about the state of the bananas that had been brought home from the grocery store– my dad liked them nearly raw, and my mom liked them nearly composted.
So. Every morning, my dad would solemnly break me off a small portion of his bananas and offer it to me. I would accept, and he would declare us “banana buddies” for the day. It was incredibly stupid, but man, being banana buddies was THE COOLEST thing ever when I was seven.
As I got older (and a bit wiser), I finally figured out his game, but by then, it was too late. I liked bananas. Most fruit, actually, but I still loved bananas, and I would always accept his offer of being banana buddies for the day.
When I was finally able to drive myself to and from school, the tradition of banana buddies became lost in the shuffle of life, except on Sundays. Sundays was a day for church and family breakfast and my dad would wake up early to make chocolate chip pancakes— with his daily banana. I don’t think I ever refused his stupid “banana buddies” deal. It was…just….one of those stupid things that we shared.
When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he encouraged (read:ordered) me to continue with my plans to go to England. I did, and while I was over there, he got a lot sicker, sicker to the point where I knew that I was going to have to come home. So I did.
The day that I got back, I took one look at my dad in his hospital room, ravaged by infection, and knew that he was going to die. Maybe not then, maybe not right there, but sooner or later, I knew, somehow, that he wasn’t going to make it. He was too weak to eat anything but “thin” foods. I remember that the hospital brought him a “regular” lunch tray by accident, and on it, was a banana.
My dad was too weak to lift the tray cover, so I did it for him. He looked at the banana, I looked at the banana, and we both started laughing. He was bald, covered in disgusting sores, shitting into a bag attached to his leg and was half the size of the huge man that he had been, and still, we both laughed. I spoon fed-him strawberry yogurt that afternoon, and that night, he died. Not even 12 hours after my flight got in, my dad died.
When I was about six or seven, still too young to really understand the implications of my dad’s job, we were at the grocery store, when a elderly, bedraggled (and, frankly, smelly) African-American man walked over to my dad. He shook my dad’s hand and thanked him, and he leaned over to me and said “Young lady, you have a fine daddy. You should be proud”.
I was terrified. I knew that my dad dealt with “bad men”, and for some reason, I was convinced that this guy, as scrappy as he looked, was obviously one of the aforementioned “bad men” that my parents talked about. To this day, I still feel bad about hiding behind my dad when the other guy reached out to shake my hand.
When he left, my dad was (rightfully so) embarrassed and a little pissed. He asked me why I had hid behind him, and I told him my theory about the guy being a “bad man”. My dad, ever the lawyer, asked me why I thought this guy was a bad man. I shrugged.
“Was it because of his dirty clothes?”
I shrugged again.
“Was it because of how he looked?”
I shrugged again.
Then my dad pulled me over to the display of bananas, and told me to pick out any bunch I wanted. I picked, (responsibly, or so I thought), the “best” looking bunch– free of any bruises or markings. We bought them, and I took them home.
We were sitting at the kitchen table, and my dad pulled out an older bunch that we’d had for a couple of days, that were marked up and dirty on the outside. He plunked both of them down on the table in front of me, and then proceeded to say something that I will never forget for as long as I live.
He took one banana–one from the “perfect” bunch I’d selected, and one from the bunch that’d been sitting around for awhile.
“People”, he said, “Are a lot like bananas”.
I was seven, so I started laughing.
“Don’t laugh”, my dad said. He said it in his SUPER SERIOUS voice, so I got kind of scared. “I’m not joking. Listen. Look at this banana you picked today. It’s really nice on the outside, right?”
He peeled the new banana and I tasted it, and it wasn’t ripe, so it was hard and it tasted terrible.
“Now try this one”. He peeled one of the marked up bananas.
The one he’d peeled was super, super questionable looking, with a bunch of grody black marks and bruises all over the peel, but when he opened it, the fruit itself was perfect, and it was just ripe enough to be delicious without being mushy.
“That man at the grocery store today is like this banana. He didn’t look very nice or very clean, and he has been bumped and bruised by life, but on the inside, he is one of the best people I know. You can’t always judge someone by their outside. You have to talk to them, and get to know them–peel away their outside so you can get to know them on the inside. Does that make sense?”
I don’t remember what I said to him, or what we talked about after that. All I remember is sitting at our grey Formica top kitchen table, sharing that ugly, marked up banana off of one of my awesome Lion King plates.
Years later, I brought up that story to my dad. I asked him if he remembered it, and he told me that I did. I was in my (perpetual) smart ass phase at the time, and I asked him what he would have done if the shitty-looking banana had actually turned out to be bad.
He paused for a moment, looked me straight in the eye and said “You’re old enough to know now, for years, I was terrified that you were going to become a serial killer, because for weeks after I told you that, you kept talking about how you wanted to take off people’s skins so you could get to know them better. I figured at that point, I’d done enough damage”.
Then he went back to watching his baseball game and I went to rehearsal, and life continued on, as it often tends to do.
I later found out that that guy who had spoken to my dad in the grocery store was an ex-felon who my dad had put in jail. While he was in there, he had written my dad a letter, telling him about his problems with drug and alcohol abuse, and my dad went out of his way to get him transferred into a treatment program, instead of just sitting in jail. I the guy went on to get his degree and become a teacher. That guy (and a number of others) were the start of what would later become the Drug Court program in Illinois, which my dad helped found and organize.
I never realized how much of an impact my dad had until his funeral, when a whole bunch of guys stopped me in the parking lot, and when they found out who I was, they thanked me, telling me that they were graduates of the program, and that my father had saved their lives because he went out of his way to get them into the program instead of letting them “run through the cycle”.
They shook my hand and told me that my father was a good man. I’d known for years, but in that moment, I was entirely sure.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that my dad kicked ass and bananas are delicious.
(Side note, please keep sending in your suggestions. I’ve only got enough to last for the rest of the month so far). You can send them in with this HANDY FORM!!
Today, I turn 25. (Well, when this is published, I’ll have been 25 for an entire day, but whatever).
Today, I also got a phone call from the man who is my father. Technically.
I say technically because he is the man who left his biological imprint on me, who is one half of the genetic donors that made me, however, he is not my father.
I was adopted at 2 days old, and from that point, my adoptive parents became, unquestionably, my parents. This is a strange concept for some people to grasp. As a kid, I would get the question “But who are your REAL parents?”. Being 7, it was hard for me to explain that no, my parents are my parents– those “other parents” just happened to be the ones who’d win a paternity test, but MY mom and dad have, and always will be, my mom and dad.
I tried “You’re not my REAL Mom” once, and only once in the heat of an argument over something stupid, probably having to do with my perpetually messy room, and the hurt on my mother’s face was enough to stop me from ever saying something so stupid ever again.
When my dad died, that…well, that was kind of it on the whole “dad” thing. There was never a part of me that thought “well, I’ve got this bonus dad on the back burner….”…I just…figured I got what I got and that was that. I got 20 some beautiful, fantastic, wonderful years with the man who was my father, and while every day I regret not having more time with him, not having him around to know Jake or see my shows or a million other small, trivial things…I had an amazing father. And I miss him, every single goddamn day. I miss having a dad. I miss having someone to look up to. Except for a very brief stint in an amazing play last year, I haven’t had that in a long time. And it’s very easy to forget what it feels like, looking up to someone.
But then, today, the man who is my father and not my father called.
And he told me that I have a sister.
Flash back three or so years–I am roughly 21, and my mom has facilitated contact with my biological mother, and SHE has a daughter. Since our first encounter, we have gotten to know each other, and I can fully and honestly say that my biological half sister on my mom’s side is the goddamn shizzlenit. She’s amazing. She is brilliant and funny and talented and beautiful and we even kind of look alike–and, bonus, we get along, and I’m going up to see her in a few weeks, and I could not be more excited.
So then here I am, today, (well, I suppose yesterday, at this point), and I’m sitting at work, taking a break, listening to a man I’ve spoken to twice in my life tell me that I have a 14 year old sister named Lillian and would it be okay if he told her about me?
….What do you say to that? Of course I said yes.
And then, thanks to the instant-gratification magic of the internet, I got a friend request on Facebook within an hour, and then, by the end of the night, we’d exchanged several messages back and forth.
My half-sister, who I’ve known about for less than 24 hours, is just as amazing as my other half sister. It is creepy how many similarities we share— except for one.
I’m ten, well, now, eleven years older than her.
And I see SO much of myself in the person that she is, right now.
And it’s weird.
Because suddenly, I’ve gotten a free telephone call to 14 year old me. I’ve got one free trip in the time machine to warn me about what lies ahead. That awkward, uncomfortable, speech-team/band geek teenager that was Catie of Christmas Past– she’s been messaging me on Facebook. And asking my opinions. And advice.
And it’s…..strange. I know that this new half-sister is not the same person I was, but at the same time, we are so very alike. Even in just the couple days that we’ve been talking, I know her. I remember her, because I WAS her. I remember 14-year old Catie, and I remember the struggle and the self doubt and the generalized awfulness that was high school—as much as I keep telling myself “we are not identical”, it is really, really difficult to accept that, because we are, for half sisters ten years apart who only “met” a day ago, we are….nearly the same person.
So now, I’m at this really weird juncture.
Part of me wants to flood her message box with the wisdom that I wish someone had told me. “You are wonderful. You are beautiful. You are amazing and talented and loved and brilliant and everything–absolutely everything–will work out okay in the end”…because I’ve got a shot. I can still save 14-year-old Catie from a thousand hurts and a thousand dangers— but I keep having to remind myself that a shared interest in percussion and speech team does not an identical personality make.
I don’t know her, really. Who am I to assume that she is not a fully confident, beautiful, assured young woman..just because I wasn’t? Who am I to determine that she needs my sage wisdom of “just keep being a jackass, it worked out for me in the end”…who am I to assume that she needs me at all?
And I feel bad. I know how I present myself, and I know how I come off. Cool, fun older girl with swords and a boyfriend and Shakespeare and blue hair and poetry and travel and performing and being awesome, all the time, but I don’t have the heart to tell her that I can’t afford my phone bill. I don’t want to disappoint her, because I feel like I’m letting her down…and I’m letting the Catie Of Christmas Past Down. It didn’t turn out all sunshine and roses. I still need a full time job, I’ve got a pain disorder that makes my life shit nearly every day and oh, by the way, sorry, 14 year old Catie, your size 0 phase lasts for about two months. Don’t get me wrong– some of it– most of it, really, turned out fucking amazing, it’s just the not-so-amazing parts that I’m hesitant to reveal. I don’t want this kid to know that I spend a lot of nights crying because I’m in so much pain. I don’t want her to know that I still puke (sometimes) just to prove to myself that I’m still “in control”.
I’m not broken, and I’m not a martyr. I accept who I am and my choices have made me who I am, a successful, awesome 25 year old, but sometimes…goddamn it….if I could warn me about me before it was too late….would I? Or am I am who I am today because of my royal fuck ups and failings?
How much about the real world do you share with someone who has two more years before they can drive?
I, well….I’ve always wanted to be a cool older sister…and now, suddenly, after 24 (well, 25) years of not knowing, I’ve suddenly been given the chance, and the potential for me fucking this up royally is pretty goddamn high.
I really….don’t have an ending for this. I don’t have a cute closer or a smarmy punch line. I’m scared. I’m scared because I like her, and I really, really don’t want to fuck this up. I like this kid a lot. But I don’t see myself as a role model or even, really, a responsible human being. I’m a writer with a passion for Shakespeare. I make shit money and I have a basket of swords, and I consider one of those an important life achievement. I love who I am and what I do, but I don’t know if I can, in good conscience, act like I know what I’m talking about…and here, suddenly, is someone who so very much reminds me of who I used to be, waiting to hear my insights.
It’s….it’s huge, for me, at least. Suddenly, I’m kind of an older sister. And, well, goddamn it, last night, after I had told her that sometimes I write things for money, she asked me to tell her a story. I could barely keep my shit together enough to tell her something coherent, let alone creative. I was literally weeping while I was writing some bullshit thing about dragons, because this….this is not something you get every day.
What would I say to 14 year old me?
What warnings would I give? What would I say to stop all of the hurt and doubt and mess that is high school? Or would I say anything at all? Would assuring her that I end up relatively good looking stop an eating disorder that nearly destroyed me? Would telling her that my writing winds up gaining me a modicum of fame push me harder to succeed?
Who would I be if I know the things that I do now?
What happens when the time streams collide?
Do I just tell her a story about dragons and long-lost sisters and nightmare kings with his army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres?
Or do I tell her to love herself, every goddamn minute of every goddamn day because she, by very virtue of her existence, is amazing?
…Goddamn it, I don’t want to fuck this up.
The bridge was silent. The engines were running, but they’d upgraded them years ago as part of a government push for low-emission engines. The boss downstairs has decided it was a smart move– play along, play it safe– “Always under the radar. Don’t make waves”. So the engines had been silenced, and the boss had happily accepted a large kick-back for the upgrade.
A.V. hated the silence. As a kid, he’d been lulled to sleep by the hum of the engines on his father’s ship, but now, there was only silence. He looked at his watch. He’d been at the bridge for hours, covering yet another shift for the boss, but now, his eyes burned and his neck was stiff. He shifted in his chair, and the glare from the console below him appeared on the observation panel he was staring into, and he jumped, thinking, for a brief moment, that he’d spotted the lights of an oncoming ship.
“You can only stare into the darkness for so long before you start to see things”.
A.V. jumped again, this time spilling his coffee down the last clean bit of his pants, cursing at the sudden warmth.
His boss laughed, a loud, jovial, raspy laugh that ended in a hacking couch. He spit, and wiped the corners of his mouth on his sleeve and slapped A.V. on the back. A.V. jolted at the impact. His boss was a huge man, barely able to stand in the bridge, his greasy black hair grazing the recessed lighting of the steel ceiling. There were plenty of rusty spots overhead, and A.V. had a sneaking suspicion that they weren’t caused by moisture from the ship, but from the sweat of his boss’s endlessly receding hairline.
“What can I do for you?” A.V. instantly regretted the phrasing.
“What can you do for me? Save that for your granny, son. I don’t need your help, I just need you to keep this pile in the air long enough to make the drop!” He laughed again, this time coughing for even longer. A.V. went to the water panel on the wall and filled a small paper cup, but his boss waved it away.
“Don’t–don’t waste that on me, son. Don’t– don’t want you to think I’m getting s-soft”. His boss sat heavily in the seat next to him, gasping for breath.
A.V. shrugged. “If you insist”. He went to the coffee pot and refilled his mug, joining his boss at the main console. He tapped a few keys, checking their altitude, then their trajectory, then checked the radar. There was nothing. Only them and maybe a few rocks. His boss looked on approvingly.
“You’re a lucky find, you. Didn’t think you’d amount to much of anything when I picked you up. Weren’t but a speck of a kid. Now look at you. You’re what now, 26? 27? Getting old….” His boss laughed again, then spat.
A.V. looked over the arm of his chair at the puddle on the floor. Even in the dim lighting of the bridge, he could see that the spittle was tinged with blood and dark with infection.
“28 next month, and you really need to do something about that cough”.
“Don’t think I know that, boy? Nothing they can do. I’ve been to every doctor that’d have me this side of Bode’s, and they all told me the same thing. I’m dying”. The old man looked dramatically into the darkness and coughed pathetically.
A.V. rolled his eyes. “You aren’t dying. I’ve seen people come back from twice as bad. You need to get some meds, Bass”.
Bass roared with laughter. In between coughs, he manged to sputter out a few choice insults. “First name basis, now, eh? You got a mouth on you, son, I like that. Problem is, where’m I supposed to find meds around here? We’ve got a good three weeks before we hit anywhere close to civilization, and in the meantime, I’m not taking any damn traders aboard. Knew a guy from back in school, took on some traders to make a little extra cash, weren’t more than three minutes aboard before everyone had their throats slit, AND I heard they raped the bodies”.
The old man started. “What?”
A.V. grinned. “How’d you hear about it? If everyone had their throats slit, how’d word get out about the evil traders raping the bodies?”
Bass made a face. “How’s anyone hear about anything these days? I heard they recorded it, then posted it up on the video channels for other people to find– as– as a warning”.
—“And then they showed their severed heads hanging on pikes, with written messages about which government officials were next?” A.V. smugly folded his hands behind his head. “They ALWAYS say that, Bass. That’s…just…the story. I don’t even think there are that many traders capable of that much destruction in this whole damned galaxy”.
Bass looked at him seriously. “Don’t matter how many of them, boy, it matters what they do. Two men can conquer an entire planet if they’ve got the most guns. I’ve seen it happen. Little settlement, not expecting nothin’, then BOOM, next thing you know, women ‘n children bein’ sold into slavery, men gettin’ shot and killed, it’s a horrible business, I’ll tell you what”.
A.V. looked out into the darkness, thinking.
They sat in silence for awhile, lost in thought, when the faint light of the blue communication channel light lit up. A.V. and Bass glanced at each other.
Bass spoke first. “Now, who in the hell— all the way out here?”
A.V.’s finger hesitated over the button. “Do you want me to–“.
“Might as well, might be a distress call or somethin’. Never know. Just don’t say anything stupid”.
A.V. hesitated for a moment longer, then pressed the open channel button. He gave their call and registration numbers as per standard procedure, and then waited for the response. Nothing.
A.V. looked at Bass. Bass shrugged.
A.V. gave their registration numbers again, and waited. There was a long silence, and then a faint crackle of an open connection.
Bass rolled his eyes and stabbed the button. “Look, sweetheart, airtime ain’t cheap in these parts– either get off our line or spit it out”.
They both waited, listening to the static on the other end. The connection crackled again, then a small voice on the other end replied. “Hello? Is anybody there?”
The two men looked at each other. A communication this far out was unusual, but not unheard of. However, the voice on the other end of the channel was a kid, or at least, someone pretending to be a kid.
A.V. pressed the button “Hello? Who is this?”
“This…this is Elena. Elena Sigrun. I’m scared”.
“Elena, my name is A.V. Where are you?”
“…I’m in the room where they drive the ship”
“Okay, Elena, is anyone else there with you?”
“No. I’m all alone. Everyone else is sleeping and they won’t wake up”.
A.V. glanced at Bass. Bass mouthed “Traders”.
“Elena, how do you know everyone is sleeping?”
“Because they’re all sleeping in the hallway”.
“Everyone is in the hallway?”
“Yes. And there is a lot of blood everywhere. I was hiding from the bad men and when I came out everyone was sleeping”.
“The bad men?”
“Yes, the men in the funny hats. My daddy let them onto the ship and then they hurt him”.
“How did they hurt him, Elena?”
“They put a knife into his neck and now he’s sleeping”.
A.V. looked up at Bass. Bass was absentmindedly chewing at his thumb, staring out into the darkness. Bass motioned for A.V. to switch seats. As the older man took his seat, A.V. watched him hesitate for just a moment. Then, in a gentle voice that seemed almost alien coming from the huge man, Bass spoke.
“Elena, my name is Bassem. My friends call me Bass. Let’s be friends, okay, Elena? How old are you?”
“Seven”. There was a pitiful sniff.
“Elena, do you know where you are?”
“I told you, I’m in the driving room”.
Bass paused. He thought for a moment, then he spoke again.
“Elena, do you want to play a game with me? ”
“…No. I’m scared”.
“It’s okay, Elena, you don’t have to be scared. I’m here, and so is A.V.”.
“But I don’t know you. You could be bad men”.
“Elena, I’m not much of a man, not much of anything really, but I promise you, we are not bad men”.
“…What does A.V. stand for?”
Bass looked up at A.V. and grinned hugely, miming a gesture akin to “what are you gonna do?” A.V. sighed. He bent over the console. “Elena, A.V. stands for Adaeze Valerija”.
There was a giggle. “That’s a funny name”.
Bass tried valiantly to hide his amusement, and failed miserably. “You’re not the only one who thinks so, Elena. Now, how about that game?”
“….Okay. How do I play?”
“Elena, look out the window. What do you see?”
“…Nothing. It’s dark. ‘Sides, I’m too little to reach the window all by myself”.
“Okay, and what about around you?”
“I can see…..I can see the buttons that the driver pushes. and his chair. He’s sitting in his chair, but his head is off”.
Bass started. “His head—- his head is off?”
“Yeah, the bad men took his head off”.
A.V. swore under his breath.
Bass took a deep breath. “Okay, that’s really good, Elena, what else? What else do you see?”
“….My daddy”. Her voice warbled.
“Good, Elena, where is your daddy?”
“He’s in his chair. He’s sleeping”.
“And where are you, Elena?”
“I’m sitting on my daddy’s lap. He won’t wake up and I’m scared”.
A.V. couldn’t be sure, but as Bass turned suddenly to gaze out into the blackness, it seemed like Bass’s hands may have swiped at his eyes. Bass turned back to the panel.
“Elena, where is your mom?”
“…the bad men took her. They took all of the mommies. and the kids, but not me cuz I was hiding”.
“So…so you’re all alone, then, kiddo?”
“Okay, kiddo. Do you know how to use the transporter system?”
“The trans— the machine that your daddy used to bring the bad men onto the ship. do you know how to use it?”
“No. that’s for grownups”.
A.V. suddenly understood, and lept to their own transport system and began the lengthy boot-up process.
From across the bridge, Bass spoke.
“Elena, look over into the corner. Is there a big box where the men came out of?”
“No, that’s in the underneath”.
Nearly simultaneously, A.V. and Bass swore. With no way of knowing what class or style of ship these people were running, there was nothing they could do. If their transporter was on another deck, they’d run the risk of losing contact before they could get the girl over to to them.
Bass thought for a moment, his face contorted with the effort.
“Elena, when the bad men came, where did they come from?”
“That’s easy, they came from the storage room. That’s where I hide sometimes. It’s warm”.
“Can you see the storage room?”
“Yeah, it’s down the hall a little bit”.
“Okay, I want you to go down and look on the main access panel and tell me if it’s enabled to dispatch “.
Bass swore silently.
“The box with all the lights on it. Should be to the right. Go see if there is a big green light at the top”.
“Ok! I can do that, easy!”. Her confidence was heartbreaking.
The two men waited anxiously, listening to her footsteps fade into the empty crackle of the open line. Then, suddenly, she was back, and breathless with excitement.
“I did it! I found it! It’s on, it’s on!”
Bass smiled. “You did great, sweetheart. Now, here’s what I want you to do. I’m going to give you some numbers. I want you to go over to the big panel, and type in the numbers EXACTLY how I tell them to you. Do you know how to write down numbers, kiddo?”
The sweet voice on the other end was tinged with annoyance. “I know how to write, I’m almost 8”.
Bass smiled again. “Great. You’re right, I’m sorry. You’re almost a grown up. Do you have a pen?”
“Yes, there’s one here in my daddy’s pocket”.
The smile faded from his face. “Right. Okay, kiddo, I’m going to tell you some numbers now, and I want you to write them down, then go put them into the transporter exactly how I told you, okay?”
“Okay! I can do that!”.
A.V. listened intently as Bass rattled off their transport id system numbers from memory. There was a pause on the other end of the line, and the tiny voice tentatively and haltingly repeated them.
“Good, kiddo. Now here’s what you gotta do. Go down to the transporter and type those in just like I told you. Then, push the big button that says “activate”, okay?”
“Then jump in, and we’ll see you on the other side”.
There was a pause. “But…what about my mommy and daddy?”
Bass closed his eyes and looked down. “Once we’ve got you safe and sound, kiddo, we’ll come back for your mommy and daddy, okay?”
“I promise. Both me and A.V. promise that nothin’ bad will happen to you, okay, Elena?”
“Okay. I guess…hey, I guess I’ll see you soon!”
“We’ll see you soon”.
Bass sprung up, an impressive feat for a man his size and cross the bridge, banging his head on a low-hanging pipe and swearing. Both of the men started intently into the transporter, willing Elena to appear.
A.V. didn’t turn his head. “You realize that if she fucks up those numbers, she’s either going to get sent over gods know where or get torn apart, right?”
Bass didn’t either. “I know”.
Suddenly, the incoming light flashed once, twice, and then the familiar whir of the transporter activated. The doors slowly opened, and there was Elena. She smiled, stepped forward, and then, without warning, fell to the ground as the gash on her throat slowly wept blood onto her white dress and onto the steel floor of the bridge.
A.V slumped against the wall, hands over his mouth, suddenly lightheaded. Bass dropped to the floor, kneeling over Elena’s body, then scooped her up into his arms. His head flew up and he looked at A.V., eyes full of tears. “Man up, boy”, he roared, “we’ve got to get her to a medic, there might still be time–“.
Suddenly, two men stepped from the inside doors of the transport system. Silently, the two men slipped into the bridge. Without speaking a word, they broke off, methodically, one towards A.V., the other towards Bass.
A.V. was the first to scream, once, then twice, and then, as the reflection of the bridge lights on man’s silver knife cut silently through the darkness, Bass joined in.
A.V. fell, his blood mingling with Elena and Bass’s. It was cold.
Bass coughed, once, twice, but this time, the coughs were deep and gargling, wet. Blood dripped from the corners of his mouth and down the front of his shirt.
Then, there was nothing.
In the darkness, the bridge was silent.
I like to think that I’m a pretty good friend.
Not a perfect friend, not always, but I like to think that for the people I genuinely care about, I am a good friend to them.
And now, I’m going to be a director.
I’ve been a director before, for different people and for different groups, but usually (with the exception of Complete Works), I’ve either hand-picked my actors or had my actors thrust upon me. Either way, I’ve never really had to make waves. Even with Complete Works, I had a few people I couldn’t find spots for, which sucked, and I felt bad, but most of the people whom I couldn’t find spots for were “theatre friends”, good friends, people who I would like to get to know better eve, but they were not “people to whom I have bared my soul to” friends.
And now, I’m going to be directing Antigone.
The problem, you see, with Antigone, is that there is only one Antigone. There’s only one of…well, everyone. And that’s it. Ten parts, ten people, that’s it, that’s all I get. I literally thought about casting 2 Antigones, or two Creons, or splitting up the Chorus, but then I realized– none of that was serving the play or my dramatic vision, it was serving my desperate need for everyone to like me, all the time.
It’s daunting and humbling, all at the same time. Next week I will be sitting at a table and listening to some of my best friends in the entire world read for my show, offering me their time and talents and supporting me, telling me that “I want to be here, I want a place in this show”, which is a HUGE gift to me, a really meaningful gift, and I am going to have to tell some of them that “Sorry, I don’t have a place for you”.
It especially sucks because quite a few of my friends, as my friends, in honest conversation, have told me honestly what roles they are interested in…and many of them want the SAME role. And a lot of them have wanted the role they’ve wanted for a long, long time. I’m going to have to choose between them, all talented, beautiful, fantastic people, and I’m going to have to let some of them down. And that sucks.
I wear many hats. I am “Director” Catie, I am “Friend” Catie, I am “Girlfriend” Catie, I am “family member” Catie…and in all of these roles and in all of these situations, I am good at delineating– at face value. I have always been really good at shutting down personal feelings and conflict in order to get the best show possible, and that’s what I plan on doing. But I also have a guilt complex– about everything. I have talked before about being a serial apologiser, and in this case, I know that I don’t have to apologize for anything– I’m not doing anything wrong, or offensive, I’m just—casting. But I still feel bad, and auditions haven’t even happened yet.
I am so amazingly, fantastically excited for this show. I have a ton of (what I think are) really good ideas, and I have (what I think is) a really neat vision of what this show can be– but I’m still dreading having to call 25 people to tell them “sorry, friend, but you didn’t make the cut”.
What’s weird is that for the first time, I’m going to be doing a show where more people are going to have to meet “director” Catie. And I’m nervous.
I’m not scared about directing the show– I am a damn fine director. I’m not perfect, but I know how to do a good job and to do things well. What has me thinking about this is that today I realized that for some of my friends, some of the people I care about most in the world, the only time they are going to meet “director Catie” is going to be when I call them to tell them that they didn’t get the part they want. Because eventually, no matter how long I put it off, I’m going to have to choose. And then, that will be it.
And I know. I know it’s the nature of theatre and how the system works and all of that, because that’s– well, it’s just how it is. But I’ve been on the other end of that. I know how much it sucks to be told “You were good—just not good enough”. I know what it’s like to lay awake wondering what you could have done better, where you messed up, or why God just didn’t make you 8 inches taller and a leggy blonde. It happens to actors, it’s a part of theatre, but it’s still a shitty feeling.
I have no idea how auditions are going to go next week, and I am SUPER excited to see what people bring to the table. I’m excited to be able to work with the people I DO get to cast, to welcome them into my little world, to share my ideas and vision and to hear theirs, and build a show together—
I’m just not excited to disappoint anyone.
I don’t cry very often. It’s just not a thing that I do.
However, every so often, something will happen that will set me off. I’m not talking about a few tears, either. I turn into an uncontrollable hot mess of weeping that is really, quite something to behold. The last time it happened, it was this couple. My theory is that I don’t cry as often as I should, so it’s like a dam effect. I go for so long, the dam breaks, boom, taken care of until the next thing.
The other day, we went to go see Jake’s grandma, who is currently in nursing care. She is temporarily sharing her room with another woman, named Caroline (I think that’s right).
When we got there, Jake’s grandma was in the room by herself, and we made some small talk for awhile. She told us that her roommate was a “quiet little thing”, but didn’t say much else about her.
Towards the end of our visit, Caroline was wheeled back into the room by her husband, who had taken her out for a drive. As she came back in, I quickly realized the reason she was so quiet– she clearly was suffering from Alzheimer’s. I felt bad– especially because I could tell she was a bit startled to see four random strangers in her room. I’m not sure if she thought she was supposed to know us or not, but she put on a smile for us.
—One of the challenges of being a writing-type person is that sometimes I find myself at a loss to describe exactly what it was that I experienced. This is one of those times.
I don’t know what it was about what happened that just keeps sticking with me, but I just keep replaying it in my head. Caroline looked so afraid, so empty– and her husband– I just kept watching him. He just looked….so sad, and so very, very lost. We probably were only in the room with them for a grand total of three or four minutes, but something about him just…stuck.
He kept touching her. These tentative, halting touches. First he rubbed her shoulders, then he stroked her hair, then back to her shoulders–he looked like he was scared he was going to break her. And he just looked so sad.
Jake’s grandma took control of the situation and told us that it was getting to be bed time (giving us a non-awkward way out), and I realized that Caroline’s husband didn’t want to leave. He was so hesitant, but his loss was palpable. He didn’t know what to do, but he knew that he had to do it.
We hugged Jake’s grandma and took off, and while I rode home, I ran through in my mind what that must be like– losing your husband or your wife twice— first to Alzheimer’s and then having to leave them in a nursing home because there’s nothing else you can do for them.
When I came home, I cried. I cried and I cried hard for way longer than I needed to– I cried for Caroline, for her husband, for their loss, for his emptiness, for her confusion– I cried because I know that might happen to me some day, or some of our friends. I cried because I know this same situation happens every day, all over the world, and I hate it.
I hate that it makes me so upset, because I’m supposed to be all cool and wacky, not upset at some random person I’ve never even met before. but I am. I just keep thinking about them. What will happen to Caroline? Or her husband? What happens to them now?
Hell, I’m sitting at work writing this and I’m crying.
While I was awkwardly weeping on the couch, Jake, in his heroic attempt to curtail my weeping, said “but this is a happy thing!”
I don’t pretend to be some super deep and introspective writer. In fact, people who believe that about themselves generally annoy me pretty hard. But if I can be deep and introspective about this for a second, maybe this is just one of those “growing up” things.
I don’t do well with loss. I know this about myself. As a kid, I was terrified of death, and as I’ve gotten older, I got over the fear and, admittedly, probably because of my dad more than anything, started just compartmentalizing. But I can’t compartmentalize Caroline and her husband because they aren’t part of my life. I don’t know them, I can’t rest assured knowing that they spent blissful years together– all I saw was this snippet of their time together, and I was devastated for them.
But then I started thinking about what Jake said.
Jake has a fantastically annoying habit of being right, all the time, and I think this might be another one of those times.
Love isn’t always sunshine and puppies. Sometimes being in love sucks ass, especially when things aren’t going your way, or when the person you’re madly in love with is late for dinner and forgotten to pick up toilet paper. Love is mundane.
Love is small, and trivial. It’s choosing to be with someone regardless of faults and failings, because they appreciate Beethoven’s 9th and consider Nerf swords appropriate gifts (Or at least, that is my version of love).
It’s more than that, obviously, but at it’s core, I think, briefly, in Caroline and her husband, I saw where love can go– where it can grow, what it can become, and I was moved by that. I was moved by the realization that maybe in 50 years, that could be me. But if it is– whether I am the Caroline or the husband in my case, one thing is for certain– I will know, unquestionably, what I experienced in the years in between, and I think that’s the part that means the most.
That’s what stuck with me. Caroline’s husband still loves her. She is gone, not entirely yet, but mostly, but he still loves her. There’s a lesson in that somewhere.
Now go vote or something.
Jake loves Halloween.
Like, loves it. Halloween to Jake is what Christmas is to most people, that special, only-comes-once-a-year, wait all year long, start decorating on the first of the month, holiday music for the whole month type of love.
And I love it.
Growing up, we celebrated, but we never went all out, so being in a relationship with someone that is willing to wake up at the crack of dawn to hang severed heads in the lawn in a non-serial killer sort of way is really awesome.
However, the level of soul-owning that goes into the level of decorating we put in is pretty crazy, especially between a broken foot, a show and two jobs.
But we usually triumph pretty hard.
This year, however, things went…shall we say…awry, at least in terms of my costume.
After working on my costume for the better part of the month of October, things fell apart. Literally.
So that means that I will be wearing a replacement costume this Saturday. I’m pretty bummed about the loss of my epic costume, but I’m just going to save it for next year, when I will hopefully have the time to put it together more solidly.
I’m going to be honest, I don’t really have a cohesive blog entry right now because I just drank a lot of coffee and I thought that writing a blog entry might allay the wicked case of coffee jitters I have right now.
Turns out it didn’t.
“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'” – Kurt Vonnegut.
I love to cook, and I love to bake. Something about the almost-scientific measuring and combining of ingredients makes me feel like I’m actually achieving something, and as someone who tends to show affection and respect through gifts and actions, making a home cooked meal is pretty much, to me, the greatest way I can say “I love you, thank you for being my friend”.
Unfortunately, life (well, shows) often get in the way of my moments of quiet in the kitchen, and I’ve realized that along with spending shitloads of money on terrible food during rehearsals, I also feel dissatisfied– like I’m missing out on something pivotal and important when I’m not cooking. I’m no suzy homemaker by any means, but cooking is something I’m good at (usually) and I enjoy (always).
I like winter especially because it’s “cold weather food time”, meaning that my affinity for pasta, soups and roast potatoes is someone more acceptable than in the middle of July.
Awhile ago, I posted a blog about my diagnoses of fibromyalgia, and somehow wound up mentioning chocolate chip cookies in the same post, because I am awesome.
I’ve gotten several emails from different readers asking me what is so flipping fantastic about my chocolate chip cookies, and could they have the recipe.
Yes. Yes you can.
I don’t know what makes these so goddamn good, but they are. Over the years, I have added and adjusted things to get them to the pinnacle of cookie perfection. When I was in college, I entered these cookies into a baking contest and won enough money to pay for two semesters of textbooks and a year of tuition. So, that good.
At some point I will go back and illustrate this with gorgeous food-bloggy type pictures, but it is disgustingly grey outside so everything looks tragically Dickensian. Your patience, please.
(Based on THIS RECIPE from allrecipes.com)
Before you start:
Procure yourself the following:
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
MAKE SURE YOUR BUTTER IS MELTED. It also helps if it is at room temperature. So pop it in the microwave and then let it sit for a little bit so it can cool down. Don’t like, leave it sitting out overnight or it will be all disease-ridden and disgusting, but ten minutes or so (I usually let it cool while I’m mixing the dry ingredients) seems to work the best).