Sunday, January 27, 2008

Will Wonders Ever Start?

One of my major themes during the entirety of this blog has concerned the constant and Rebellion-V-Empire-scale struggle of getting my theatre company to listen to us little people and convincing them that improvements are not always easy but necessary. To try and work into their minds that you may not like some of the ideas we have, but sometimes (especially when we all can agree on them) they are ABSOLUTELY essential.

I bring this up because last Wednesday there occurred an event that which few have witnessed here at BRT before. Are you ready? Drums, please.

A Pre-Production Meeting.

Oh yeah, I’m not making that up to make myself feel better. This really happened. The director, the choreographer, the scenic, lighting and costume designers all met in a room and started talking about Dear World, the final show of the season. Then, approximately an hour later, my production manager, myself, my master carp, my scenic painter and BOTH stage managers joined them and we all talked about the VERY SAME PRODUCTION. Where Nels (yes, of I Do, I Do fame) wants to go with the set, what problems may arise from it, where I might have some input, how building a two-story circular staircase might fuck the Scott’s ability to light anything, etc. What colors are we thinking of so that Lisa can incorporate them into what people are wearing and vice versa. Do the columns living here give Greg (not TW, the good one) enough room to stage the Dungeon Tap Dance (no, not making that one up, either) in this musical . . . You know, the little things.

Nothing concrete was really decided during this meeting; that, of course, wasn’t the point. But some elements were decided, if not in final form then at the very least in their ethereal one. Everyone, and I don’t exaggerate here, felt something in the air during those two hours. There was an air of professionalism about all of us that no one, I think, was truly prepared to feel amoung the same design team from which the nightmare that ended up being I Do, I Do; the first of two shows that almost killed us. To be frankly honest, everything at this meeting could change tomorrow but the idea that we all talked about a show that doesn’t open until May 1st (for those of you keeping track, that’s over four months away) is astounding. Simply astounding.

I know this is what I’ve been asking for since I got here. This is one of the benchmarks of improvement we all, not just myself, have been aching for since long before I brought my kitten to this lil town and started clamoring for change. Still, when the miracles do occur, I think you’re allowed a little “wow” time to bask in the light of them. You can spend half your life training a bear to ride a unicycle but when you actually GET that bear to ride a fucking unicycle, I think you’re allowed a moment of, “There’s a fucking bear riding a unicycle in front of me!” . . . Unintentionally, that analogy is more apt than you can possibly imagine.

I can only pray this practice of PREPARING for upcoming productions (how’s THAT for alliteration?) continues. I know that everyone made such a point of stating how good they felt afterwards that I’m just so damned surprised no one thought to have these things years ago (I couldn’t actually say that with my tongue inserted ANY FIRMER into my cheek …). I also can’t, in good conscious, take any real credit for making this happen. Sure, I added my voice to its demand, but no one really asks, “How high?” when I shout, “Jump!” around here. Usually the response is, “Why the hell are you shouting at me, Jake?!” Still, through the voices of the many (and the threats of the many, now that I think about it) there arose a precedent. From this precedent there had BETTER arise a tradition, that’s all I’m saying for now.

Also in the news, at my behest we’re building a tool cabinet for the shop. For any of you who’re keeping track, that’s the third I’ve built in my career. Eventually I hope it will look something like this but for the time-being it looks something like this. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps. It’s times like these that I wish I had had the forethought to take a bunch of pictures of places like the shop and backstage BEFORE we started going through them with vacuums and the organizing stick. Without comparison when I sit with the Powers at my contract renewal meeting, asking for the raise I plan on asking for, I’d love to be able to say, “Here’s how I found it. And here’s how I’ve left it. Which do YOU prefer?” Ah well, such is life and my lack of forethought. That is all for now. More actual photos and news as events warrant.

That’s word. Good night. And good luck.

PS – Oh, and “TW” stands for “Twat Waffle”. That’s Greg Mitchell’s (you fuck) new nickname. I know it’s a little crude but it just seems to fit him. You can’t argue providence when it happens so cleanly. I don’t really like the word “twat” very much at all because of its crudeness and because it sounds like its true calling is to be an onomatopoeia (which is NOT spelled phonetically, by the way) of ten pounds of raw cookie-dough hitting a linoleum kitchen floor (I’ll give you a second to work that out in your head and then say it out loud – go ahead, no one’s listening). But when you add the word “waffle” to the end of it, it seems to lighten the repulsiveness somehow. Together, they role off the tongue (like jell-o after novocain).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I haven’t updated this blog in a while. I could go into details as to why, but none of us has time for that. Let’s skip it. It’s not important and all that really matters is that I haven’t completely given up on this thing yet. Yet.

Happy New Year. If it is a Happy New Year. Which I doubt.

I’ve discovered something: The time to become introspective towards your own life and accomplishments (or lack there-of) is not when listening to Tom Waits. But dammit, I just can’t help it. I once read a critic describe Tom Waits’ music as an glimpse into a rainy, filthy world as infested with jazz as with cock-roaches that never quite exists but the romantic in us fervently wished did. I don’t know about that but after listening to the man gargle caltrops, I still manage to feel like being drunk, broken-hearted and soaking wet would be cool.

I’m not going to dwell on this too much cause luckily I’m past the worst of the holiday-induced depression but every year around this time (not so much Christmas, it seems, as New Year’s), when for one literal moment in time the most important thing to everyone around you is to have someone to kiss as a glowing, pulsing orb of Doom descends to a “0” and we all fervently wish Dick Clark would just RETIRE FOR FUCK’S SAKE! (we love you, Dick Clark – for the love of honor, go to bed! you look like a prune sitting in tepid water and you make us all sad! Stop making us sad, Dick Clark!); meanwhile, I sit there alone and most definitely kissless. I hope I put on a pretty good show to the contrary, but I’d be lying if I said this didn’t get to me every year. It’s not that I’ve been single forever, I just usually find myself alone on New Year’s. Enough so that I’m beginning to hate the freaking holiday as much as Valentine’s Day (don’t get me started).

The alternative is not that alluring either, I have to admit. I am not in a rush to date someone. I’m not so alone and desperate as to think that anyone is better than no one but being amoung even my good friends on New Year’s, the combination of champagne, kissing, Tom Waits and Wii was enough to make me want to crawl into a closet for a good long time (what? all the good games are two-player; you think I didn’t notice that?!). That and nothing inspires run-on sentences like despair (see above).

Like I said, I don’t know that I’m desperate yet but the time up here in Bristol has been, for the most part, lonely. Sometimes it gets the better of me. Sometimes Tom Waits makes me want to leave it all behind and go jump freight cars. Sometimes the fact that the only woman who wants to sleep with me is an insistent kitten makes me want to find the bottom of a bottle really, REALLY quickly. And just as often, I realize none of that really matters. Things as fickle and fleeting as Love happen when some power wiser and grander than myself deem it timely to happen. I realize that all my past relationships have consequently ruined me for girls lesser than the ones that have already broken my heart and every ruined love affair is another mistake I won’t make again and I’m done wasting my time on women I know I want nothing to do with. Until those stars align again, I’ll bide my time. Zelda’s a covers hog, but she takes up less of the bed and she doesn’t care if I snore.

And of course, the preceding thought leads me directly to the proceeding thought ...

My House Sits Upon a Hell Mouth.

You laugh like I’m making this up. I submit the following proof:

Exhibit A: The Gateway Mirror. In the massive cavern that passes for my living room, above the tectonic shelf that passes as a fireplace mantle, sits a mirror vaguely the size of a stargate. The thing must be six feet wide and eight feet tall. It’s huge. Zelda has a tendency to sit on the back of the couch whilst the rest of us eat dinner and watch TV. She just sits there and stares at it. I’m convinced she sees the spirits of some past Age floating from it into our world. There are times when she starts staring at that mirror and trills like she does (my kitten never begins by meowing, it’s usually preempted by a kind of kitten clearing-of-the-throat) and then intently follows absolutely nothing across the room like Claude Rains is dangling Swarovski Crystal tied to dental floss. . . . See, it’s very hard to see . . . Ah, nevermind. Regardless, if something’s there, it is not visible by human eyes. And unless Zelda’s having acid flashbacks, I’d swear she was watching something float around the room. Not to mention that it can get cold as my ex-girlfriend’s sexual desire for me in front of that fireplace (which, I have it on pretty decent authority, is VERY cold, indeed . . .). Oh sure, it COULD be the chimney’s flu that’s not properly closed but I know better: Spirits. From a bygone era. Mark my words.

Exhibit B: My Zombie Basement. You know how some people have finished basements with carpets and widescreen TVs and a half-bath? Some people have unfinished basements with concrete floors and a washer/dryer? Some have wine cellars? But then again, some people have dirt holes in the ground where they throw captives and force more-than-must-be-healthy amounts of lotion into their skin (or else they get the hose again)? The basement in my house is a damn cellar. The floor is compacted dirt, for Pete’s sake. The walls are cinderblock that have been painted a hundred different colors over the years, each peeling away to reveal yet another carcass of latex below it. There is the odd assortment of work tables and yet more plastic-wrapped furniture stored by BRT (I swear, the day we decide to have a yard sale we’ll be able to mount Les Mis and Cats. . .); but what’s really creepy are the nooks & crannies.

No, no, no. Follow me on this. Picture this in your mind’s eye. There is one single, naked light bulb down there (the fucker’s on a chain that swings; it’s STRAIGHT out of Psycho . . .). It sits relatively in the middle of the cellar, which runs pretty much the length of the house. But what with all the support columns and the corners, perhaps half of the basement is actually ever lit at a given time. Just like childhood, nothing says unadulterated, unfettered Fear like the dark. My Zombie Basement has it in spades. There’s a crawl space, for fuck’s sake. Towards the back of the house (under the kitchen, I believe) there’s a built-up section that may have resembled a wall at one point. Behind this section, Zombie Basement continues WHERE NO LIGHT DARE ITSELF GO. Only now, you’ve only got half the normal Zombie Basement height. Keep in mind that I’m 6’1” (all leg) and can barely stand up straight down there as it is.

For now, I have not actually seen any zombies. Good thing, too. I’ve got a chair propped up against the doorknob, just in case we’re asleep when they decide to show up. But I know that won’t hold them forever. I plan on borrowing Mike Russo’s 20-gauge shotgun soon; just to be prepared.

You laugh, but when the zombies rise, they will first come from my basement. And I’ll be ready.

Exhibit 3: The Fucking Demon Living in the Radiators! Now, I’m not one prone to panic. Part of my job is keep a level head and reign with Logos in the face of Chaos. Still, as I try to convince my body to fall into blissful ignorant sleep at night, I can’t help but hear that . . . Thing’s rasping breath I can only describe it as the first half of Darth Vader’s breathing, just the inhalation. Like the thing’s constantly only sucking in air (and probably souls to boot). Now, Anna swears to me that it’s only the heated water of the radiator system being pumped up through the pipes and into the respective rooms, making a WHOOSHING sound. But I know better. Convenient, don’t we think, that this very same sound just happens to sound like a Balor demon waiting to devour my very soul? I don’t know if words can express the terror that fills my heart when I hear this sound. It’s truly too terrible for words to describe. So, . . . I won’t. Suffice it to say that every time I walk by a radiator I feel the need to mumble protection spells, chalk out the Evil Eye (traditionally diagrams meant to shield the inscriber from Darkness), or at the very least find my +2 Longsword of Demon-Slaying (I might have traded it for my Boots of Escaping, which would work in a pinch, too). I’m sure the creature has red eyes and I’m sure it’s the reason the heat seems to go so randomly from fanTAStically hot to fucking freezing.

Exhibit 4: Nothing Truly Survives This Place. Truth be told, I don’t know if this signifies Evil, per se, or not. When I first arrived in Bristol, I found just about every object made of metal to be affected by rust. Some in small amounts, some in so large a state of disintegration that I expected them to turn to dust at my touch. In my five-odd months here since then, I have seen two of my own tools break and continued to be exposed on a daily basis to objects which should be relatively well-maintained break and break down because of some unknown air-born sickness. At first I just blamed the closeness of the river, but soon I realized the truth: It’s the Evil.

You mock. But someday soon the powers of Darkness will attempt to rise and take control of our world and unless one of my three roommates happens to be a Slayer, my paranoia will be our last bastion of defense. Then again, I don’t know that I’d be all that surprised to see Anna or Stefi turn around one day and sidekick a vampire through a window. I don’t hold out much hope for Kate but then again it is always the quiet ones, isn’t it?

In the First Week of February, My Kung Fu Once Again Grows Strong.

This isn’t much, but it’s the simple things that sometimes can be the biggest turning points in our lives. I’ve been feeling lost recently. I find myself drinking more and more and of course I don’t feel any better about anything for it. I find myself dwelling on exgirlfriends and lost family members and people I’ve left behind and wondering (albeit not for the first time) whether or not moving up here was the best decision I’ve made in recent years. In short, I’ve felt lost and found myself feeling small (for lack of a better term) more than I’ve ever felt before. Then I realized not too long ago one thing that has been missing from my life for over a year now. No, it’s not sex; although that hasn’t exactly been falling from the sky recently, either.

This January marks eighteen months that I’ve officially been out of training. Martial arts have been a serious part of my life since I was a junior in high school. The discipline and the activity helped sculpt me into the person I am today. A year ago and a half ago, I found myself growing more and more dissatisfied with my TaeKwonDo dojann and with my training in general. A year ago, I found myself carless and completely unable to get myself to class at all. Indistinctly and without fanfare, I unceremoniously quit. I tried to keep myself in shape on my own but sit-ups and push-ups in my bedroom and a few-and-far-between stretching and combination sessions in the backyard just weren’t cutting it. I have little to no discipline when it comes to keeping myself in shape. I’m not proud of that, but when you’re used to being motivated by a room full of other like-minded people, it’s hard to muster that inspiration all on your own. That doesn’t excuse my abandonment of the past thirteen years of what, I now realize, was one of the cornerstones of myself, but it may help explain it. In short, I miss training. I miss the way I felt after working out, I miss kicking and jumping and teaching and even miss getting kicked in the head.

My hetero-lifemate Jesse lives in Philly and has been training with a dojo in Center City for almost four years now. He’s doing a style of kung fu known as Than Vo Dao or “Seven Mountains Spirit Fist” which just sounds silly when translated into English. Not as silly as Lok Hup Ba Fa, which loosely translates to “Six Harmonies of Water Boxing” (which must be something like Water Ballet, right?) but I admit it’s close. In any case, I’ve seen the school and it has as good a karma to it as I remember my school having when I first started there in high school. And don’t snicker so loudly at the karma comment. You might laugh but we all knew that the school in Karate Kid had a bad karma to it even if we didn’t understand at the time how or why. The overall attitude of a classroom (or anything, really) is dictated by the instructor and the students. Positive vibe equal positive learning. I don’t want to waste my time with some nut who tried ton convince me his style of whatever is the best out there ever. I don’t care. I’ve seen karate kick kung fu and I’ve seen a wushu master kick the living bejesus out of a judo master so don’t start that nonsense with me. “The best martial art is the one you practice.” Jackie Chan said that and if you’d like to fuck with Jackie Chan, be my guest. You’ll lose. Just trust me on this. You will. Even if you manage to beat him up (you won’t), then you’ll have to live with having beaten up someone as positive and inspiring as Jackie Chan. I mean, who really wants to beat up Jackie Chan?! The Terrorists. Do you want to be a Terrorist?

. . . I digress. Anyways, I start classes in a week or two. I don’t know if I can afford it (money’s not just tight, it’s taut) but I know I have to try. A part of me is missing and I hope kicking other people in the face will help me find it again. . . . That came out wrong. Ah, nevermind.

That’s word.