Blog-A-Day #4– “Why are bananas important?”

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?”

I nodded.

“Try it”.

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!!

And Now, For Something Completely Different

My blog software just told me that this is my 100th post on my blog–I meant for this to be some sort of intelligent and interesting trek back through time, but then I thought, well…why not just make a bunch of testicle jokes instead?

So today I was super excited to find a message in my inbox from my awesomely talented friend Andrew asking if I might find it in my heart to write him a short monologue for a big audition he has coming up.

I love writing monologues. I’ve written a few for friends before, but today’s was a particularly interesting challenge as the audition required it to be a “non-fiction” piece.

Andrew requested it be about juggling.

Seeing as the show is about Oscar Wilde (who I am a huge fan of), I decided that really the only way to do him justice would be to be…Wildly (sorry) inappropriate.

I’m a little out of practice, but I thought I did pretty well for twenty minutes of writing on a Tuesday after a strike!

How to Juggle (Or, 2 Minutes to Over-kill)
By Catie Osborn

So you’d like to learn how to juggle. Congratulations, dear reader. You have taken your first steps into becoming the life of every party you may find yourself attending from now until the day you find yourself uninterested in attending parties, or dead. Should a party not be available to you, the techniques and skills outlined in this article can still be used to entertain yourself privately for hours on end.

The basic three ball juggle can be learned by most people in a short amount of time… maybe half an hour with help from a good teacher or perhaps a few days on your own. Go through these instructions at your own pace. Before you try each step, relax and visualize what you want to happen. With a little practice and patience, juggling will become easy.

Before you start, it’s important to accept that dropping is inevitable. Work on your technique first and worry about catching anything later. Many people find that juggling over a bed saves a lot of time and energy in picking up dropped balls.

The first and most important thing to learn is to throw and catch a single ball—we will move on quickly, dear reader, because if you can’t manage one, an additional two in your hands may prove disastrous.

When you are confident with your grip (and catching technique), you’re now ready for two balls. Hold one ball in each hand. Throw one of the balls up and across—Each of your hands should receive a ball at the culmination of each throw. Throw, throw, catch, catch.

Spend a few minutes throwing your pair back and forth, right to left and left to right. Each time, try to keep them at eye level or above—one might picture the balls hanging in the air above them—your hands are merely there to keep them from hitting the floor. Practice until this move is smooth and easy. Congratulations! You’ve learned the basic move needed for juggling!

Remember here to take a pause in between throws. “Juggling” works best when done relaxed and slowly.

Finally, when you’re ready, move on to three. Do not be intimidated, dear reader—the three ball juggle is identical to what we’ve just learned—think of the third ball as an additional guest, deserving of as much attention as your other two.

Begin by simply holding the balls to adjust to the feeling of three, placing 2 in the hand that you want to start with and 1 in the other hand. It should be a comfortable feeling. Then, simply toss as you’ve previously learned, adding the third ball directly behind your 2nd toss.

If you are having trouble catching the balls, think about where you are throwing them. The most common problem for beginners is throwing too far out in front of you. To cure this problem, try to keep your balls in front of your face. It may help to juggle in a confined area, such as a closet or out-of-the way room so as to minimize distractions.

With practice, you may even be able to add two sets of balls into your daily practice routine! As you practice, Remember, dear reader, that dropped balls happen. Simply dust them off and try, try again.

Building Rome In A Day

Yesterday was “build day” at our space.

And a space we have.

I’m not going to lie, it is an impressive-feeling space. The ceilings are high enough in the Stern Center to give plenty of room for our drape, so between the drape and the lighting rig, it looks incredible. I’m really excited to work the show as a whole.

I also am entirely proud that I was able to set up four dimmer packs and a board with a system I’d never worked in before in less than an hour. The wash is going to be a little uneven because of the possibilities of direction and shadows, (3-sided rig on a 4-sided set) but last night I had the revelation that it actually works for the needs of the show. I need to work the lighting cues and make sure the lights are coming on when they’re supposed to, but they are working, and that’s the most important thing.

We also shot the adverts to the show this weekend, so on-the-fly learning imovie enough to put together the ads was a frustrating (if ultimately successful) venture. They wound up coming out really nice. Here’s this week, if you’re interested.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmDYN7GGWGc

There is going to be a really fun article by David Burke in the paper about the show on Saturday, so I am excited for that as well.

I’m exhausted and happy. I’m disappointed there isn’t rehearsal tonight– I feel like we had a ton of momentum and now I have to put that on pause for two days while I wait for the run, but I think it will give me some time to absorb what we worked on at rehearsal and get a few more things done for the show that I’ve been putting off.

Last night I couldn’t sleep and so I decided to finally put together my stumps for the “reveal” scene. I did some research on the internet to come up with the best way of doing it, and oh my god. They are disgusting. Like, they make me uncomfortable to look at and I made them. I am excited to see how they read under the lights, because I think it’s going to be awesome. In a horrific sort of way. Which, really, in this show, is the best thing possible to happen.

So as not to give away spoilers, I will refrain from posting pictures until after the show is over, but afterwards, I am determined to publish a “So You’re Doing Titus Andronicus…A Comprehensive Guide to Guts and Gore”. It’s going to be epic.

Things My Father Left Me (the coffee cup monologue)

Soooo another audition, another play….

I got stuck at auditions and didn’t know that I had to have a monologue. Should have figured that, but there you go… I have a bad habit of forgetting that I need a  monologue, but a weird talent for BSing my way through auditions by improving a monologue on the spot. I don’t recommend this technique.

I had just gotten coffee from the gas station, and they were out of those little cardboard thingies to not burn your hands, so I grabbed an extra cup. Out of having two cups and having my name called before I could remember my Durang piece, this monologue was born.

—————————————-

I had my first cup of coffee when I was nine. My father used to say that all situations could be solved over a cup of coffee–so every Sunday, we would head to this tiny diner on the other side of town. We didn’t go to church, so this was my holy ritual. We would get in the car, turn on classic radio, roll the widows down–even in winter–and drive faster than we were supposed to–to make it exciting. We’d get to the restaurant, sit in our usual booth on opposite sides, and Tiffany, our waitress, would deliver our usual–two cups of coffee, one black and one with two creamers and two sugars. We’d drink them slowly, sometimes ordering pancakes, sometimes just relishing the terrible coffee and each others company.

We’d discuss everything–politics, religion, law, history—and he’d always listen to me. Tiffany would come by once, to refill his glass and give me a cookie, and my dad would tip her thirty percent.

We’d drive back home and I’d run around the house for hours, hopped up on caffeine. My mother was furious–thought it would stunt my growth. I didn’t find out until I was 15 that I’d been drinking decaf.

My dad left when I was 18. I don’t know why. He just…left. For the next three Sundays, I walked to the diner on my own, would sit in our usual booth, order our usual coffees, one black, and one with two creams and two sugars, and wait. Tiffany had long stopped bringing me cookies, claiming that I was too old for cookies, but for those three Sundays, she brought them anyway. And so I sat, waiting.

He never came back. Sometimes, when I’m out at some restaurant or whatever, I’ll order two cups—just in case.

A Few New Monologues.

So I’ve been writing a lot of performance stuff recently, and a few friends have asked me to write them up monologues for various occaisions and auditions. Also, my boyfriend just broke up with me, so please ignore some of the sappy emo-ness of some of them. It happens.


Monologue 1:

Okay, so, listen. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. Three of these and your collection is complete. But what if I told you that right now, I am willing to throw in a vintage 1987 yankee? And not just any Yankee, either. I’m talking a vintage, never before touched by human flesh Willie Randolph. The most acclaimed infielder of the ’87 season. Batting average .305, salary, $900.000  big ones. And all of this can be yours if you just ask my sister to the dance. Look, I know she’s not that smart. Or pretty, but she really wants to go. Last year she was sick and the year before that she had a broken arm and so this is her last chance at getting to go to the Starry Enchantment Under the New York Pyramids Dance. I’m on the committee, Mrs. Flynn said there wasn’t a budget for new decorations since the gym needs repairs and so we just pulled from storage but anyway, listen, Ricky. You’ve known me for a long time, I’m an honest guy. I’m fair. What if I threw in a 1980 Bobby Sprowl? Best pitcher the Astros ever had. Three seasons, not one error. Mint condition, Ricky. Mint. And I will include, in this once in a life time deal, this bag of Twizzlers. Cherry, Ricky. Cherry. Just please. Ask my sister to the dance or Mom says I’m grounded.

Monologue 2:

So there you are. And there he is. And then, suddenly, he’s not. And you’re sitting there and you’re thinking “what the fuck” because that’s all you can think and meanwhile everything around you is moving at the speed of light and you’re stuck in slow motion trying desperately to catch up, but you know that everything is going to be different by the time you get there. That’s what it’s like. Or something like it, I suppose. It’s different maybe, for others. A new series of factors: how long, how much, how little, that sort of thing. But in the end, you’re left with just you and this world that keeps on spinning no matter how desperately you wish it would stop for just one moment, just to let you catch your breath and figure out what the hell happened, where it went wrong, catch everything before it falls apart. But that’s not how the world works. No matter what we do, it just keeps moving. So we have to keep up. You have to keep up.


Monologue 3:

My neck hurts in the evenings and it is then that I miss you most. Not you–I stopped missing you before you were gone. Somewhere between your immeasurable sadness and my desperate need and inability to fix you, I ceased in caring because I couldn’t care enough. I couldn’t love you enough to fix you, so I forced myself to let go, because I knew in the end, it was coming. Which, I suppose, is what led to the end. So I have resolved not to miss you. But I miss your touch. Your arms, the sweat of your forehead–I miss you. Not you. Your person. The bits and pieces that I can recall when I shut my eyes. Your breath on my neck, me holding on desperately and knowing I’d have to let you go eventually. There was such beauty in those moments. Hope. A hope that maybe things would work out, that the fates would collide and the stars would allign and suddenly, you would be okay. You would be okay. Things might work for me, just this once. I knew they wouldn’t from the beginning. But still I hoped. I wanted it to. I think I needed it to. So I don’t miss you. I miss what we could have had.

Monologue 4:

There is this moment, just before the dawn, when the stars shine down and watch as the world vibrates its way to a new morning. There’s always been something about that moment. The way the whole world seems to stop and the stars hold their breath, waiting for that great rebirth. This sudden perfect stillness that gives way from velvet black  into the magnificent golden dawn. It’s as if we’re given a chance, another turn–as though nothing bad could happen because all of the energies of the universe are focused on creating the new day. Anyway, after he–after– I realized that that stillness is just the stars holding their breath,hoping that just for one night no such–abominations will occur under their timeless watch. Unfortuanately for those celestial beings, the men of earth strike at night. They use that perfect stillness to muffle screams and silence cries, and they use that beautiful velvet blackness to sneak away unseen night after night after night. It’s then that the dawn comes, but I know better.  And that, Daniel, that is why I write. To make sense of such beauty in an ugly, ugly world.