Friday, March 19, 2010

Dancing in a foreign language

Okay, so last night usher gig was for a ballet company, Dominic Walsh Repertory from Houston. Sort of one of those modern ballet with a contemporary twist kind of companies. I’m not much of a ballet person so I was kind of open to whatever it is, it is.

The first piece is called The Swan, adapted from Swan Lake. Okay. Gotcha. And we start with a rather darling looking prince sitting alone on the stage. And enter the swan. A very tall, lithely muscular man in what can only be described as tutu pants and a sort of corset-like band. Oh. Okay. It’s gonna be one of those kind of nights. I can dig it. It was a very sensuous verging on the sensual kind of dance where all that masculine musculature is put to good use. You know when a man and a woman dance together, she’s probably not going to be lifting him. But when it’s two men, the lifts become much more intricate, swapping who is supporting whom. And if you aren’t thrown by the guy on guy thing, which a few patrons seemed to be (it’s dance, folks, get over it), it was kinda sexy to watch.

And, actually, it wasn’t all that kind of an evening. There was really a full range of combinations of dancers. And it was all thoroughly enjoyable. But I have to say, when it comes to the more dancery forms of dance (you know anything other than tap or Broadway style), I’m kind of at a loss. Unless there’s a story that I can follow, I just don’t get it. Dance seems to have a vocabulary. Certain things mean certain things. But for me, it’s like sitting listening to a really gorgeous man speak Italian. No, really, go on. It’s lovely, but I don’t understand a thing. I’m enjoying you immensely, but please don’t think communication has occurred. I mean, with dancers they have these mind blowingly gorgeous bodies, and I can enjoy all the lines and leaps. But, I just am not getting the idiom. Like, last night, during Afternoon of the Faun, they kept doing this thing where they’d grab the toes of one foot, and stretch out their leg in the air to sort of fall into a walk. I don’t know how to describe it any better than that. And unless that is a dance phrase that means “I pulled a hamstring at yoga today”, I have no clue what they’re trying to tell me. Very pretty though. And there was this section to Mozart music, where all the men wore these 18th century kind of tail coats, but instead of tights on the bottom, all they had was kind of like a pair of man-panties. Which, with the formal coat, kind of made you want to say, "Hey, there, free bird, why don't you go put on some pants?" I think it meant something. I don't know what.

Well, I guess that’s the beauty of this volunteering thing. I’m seeing a lot of stuff that’s far enough outside my comfort zone that I wouldn’t pay for it myself. And maybe some day I’ll figure out that toe thing, too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Adulteration of Jesse James

So, the word is that Jesse James cheated on Sandra Bullock. With a bus stop skank. Without protection. Ugh. If true, I just find this gravely disappointing.

Because it means he’s not what he appeared to be. Which is the reformed bad boy. And who doesn’t like one of those? Especially when they pulled the sh** together young enough to do something with their lives. I mean look at him: the muscles, the tatts, the goat, and that oh-so-lethal twinkle in the eye. And paired with a soul that has travelled the bad road, and had enough sense to turn it around. Ouch. My ovaries. In the pantheon of hot guy archetypes, the Bad Boy has to be in the top 5.

But going bareback with a skank when his wife is at home with his kids from a previous marriage means that he’s not the reformed bad boy. He’s not even a bad boy. He’s a stupid boy. The kind who can’t deal with normal life. Not having things falling around his ears is just a little too boring. And evidently lighting himself on fire and jumping his motorcycle over 12 Winnebagos wasn’t exciting enough either. Nothing livens up the old marriage like hooking up with a hooch, huh, Jesse? Turns out he’s just one of those guys who will never get his crap together, because he can’t handle having all his crap together. And any time things get “boring” he’ll see what he can do to mess up his life. And will drag anyone in his immediate circle into the swamp with him.

Fortunately, Sandra Bullock can choose to exit the scene of the crime and decline to join him in his little psycho-drama (and smart money says she’s hitting the dusty trail out of Dodge). Unfortunately, his kids won’t really get that chance, since their mother is the last time he tried to foul up his life. They’re in for the long haul. Train wreck after train wreck.

All, of course, allegedly.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Night to Remember

Well, last night ushering over at the performing arts center was just a thrill. I told other people that last night alone just made all the other effort worth it. The title says it all: Frost/Langella. As in Sir David Frost and Mr. Frank Langella. The man who has interviewed just about every famous or infamous person of the 20th Century and, you know, Dracula. Okay, he’s done other stuff too. But come one. He’s Dracula. Anyway. My silly girl-thrills aside, the topic was, of course, the interview.

David Frost (who was wearing a newscaster-ish suit with, please note, fuschia socks – kudos) and Frank Langella had such different, yet complimentary takes on the event. Frost of course had been at the actual interview with Nixon and knew all the behind scenes details of how the entire meeting occurred. Plus he had the perspective of viewing Nixon in context with so many other world leaders that he had interviewed. Langella, on the other hand, had done so much research on the man (talking to people who had met Nixon, reviewing news footage, visiting the Nixon library), trying to find a handle on this complex man in order to play the humanity behind that image.

And here was the thing that made the evening just electric for me. It was one of those things that will only happen once, and could only happen with those two people in the room. In his research, Langella had asked the Nixon library if he might be able to see notes written by Nixon, just so he could get a sense of the way the former president thought. What they gave him was the two boxes of papers Nixon had used prior to the Frost/Nixon interview. Wow. And in the box was the series of notes that was given to him by his media staff (Diane Sawyer among them) that said, “Frost may ask you about Cambodia, we suggest you say this . . .” or “He may ask about Watergate, we suggest you say this . . .” And because he was intimately familiar with the interview for the play, Langella could tell that at some points Nixon had repeated those answers practically verbatim. Which is something that Frost had never known until that very moment. Wow. Just wow.

It was just filled with that sort of historical detail, and verged off into current events, human behavior and other stories from both the participants’ lives. A really and truly amazing hour of conversation. I don’t think I can even call up enough details to give you an idea. There was just so much to absorb.

I don’t see how the ushering gig can ever come up to that kind of thrill for me again. Politics meets show biz in an epic showdown - could they have come up with something that would be a better theme for me? Not hardly. I may have peaked too soon. But can you imagine if something of that caliber happened again? Wow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

To Change and Be Changed

I did the volunteer usher gig over at the performing arts center on Sunday. The show was Neil Labute’s The Shape of Things. So it was all about butterflies and blue skies and everybody ends up happily ever after. Yeah, right. No it was the usual “sociopaths on parade” that you get from Labute. But interesting as usual, in a car crash of humanity sort of way.

[And as a side note, watching that much emotional turmoil as close as you are in the theater’s black box space is really wrenching. Even past my usual phobia about being too close to the actors – which is creepy. But watching some poor guy get pounded like a piece of flank steak 10 feet away is pretty traumatic. Don’t know if I’ll usher for any of the other plays in the cycle.]

The discussion group afterwards was supposed to be about whether what the lead female character creates is really art. [SPOILER ALERT – this kind of gives the game away if you ever want to see the show yourself] Because basically what she does is sculpt another human being into a more attractive version of himself. In a completely deceptive, venal and sociopathic way (it is Labute). And the question they posed was “Is that art?”

Frankly, I found the whole art thing to be a red herring. I think the play was really about change and love. One way to look at it was that the main character keeps changing so that the artist will keep sleeping with him. But another way is that he keeps changing so that she will keep changing him. When she walked into his life, he was kind of a miserable guy who didn’t like himself so much. And the changes she made gave him more confidence, and more ability to take charge of his life. In some ways, the people we love the most are the ones that change us the most. Make us see, feel and understand more. Make us new versions of ourselves.

In the best relationships (and this includes friends and family members as well as lovers), the changes are mutual and reciprocal. We change as much for them as they change for us. Of course in the play, it was a completely one-sided arrangement. He under went a metamorphosis, and fell deeply in love. She didn’t change at all for him. She walked in a cold-blooded manipulator, and walked out a cold-blooded manipulator (a real piranha that one). So, no, she did not love him. And that’s a lop-sided equation that’s always going to end in tears. Poor guy. And in some ways, lucky guy. To change, learn and grow is the best of what love is for. Even when it's painful.

Monday, March 15, 2010

In the words of James Taylor - Mexico, sounds so sweet I'd sure like to go

Well, this Saturday I decided would be the day. Long-threatening come at last. I was going to conquer my “backyard.” Ironic quotes intentional both because of its sized (about 100 square feet all told) and because it was such a patch of nothing special. When I had first moved in, there were the remains of what had been the previous tenants koi pond. I had asked that they remove it. I don’t have the patience for koi, and it would have just become a mosquito breeding ground under my care. They had left a rickety Jerry-built awning that I tore down last year because I was afraid that it would fall on someone (the doves that had been using it as a covey have been giving me the dirt eye ever since). What remained back there was a pile of pavers, a large pot that someone had done a spectacularly unsuccessful crackle-paint job on, an unused satellite TV dish and 3 bags of compost. And dead weeds. Lots and lots of dead weeds.

And that was one of the big motivators to get back there and start hauling away. Last year I had no less than 3 pig weed plants in my backyard (one as tall as me), and I’m HIGHLY allergic to pig weed (like ragweed, only bigger and uglier). I just think it’s probably a bad idea to let something that makes me itch, tear and sneeze grow right under my bedroom window. I’m sharp like that.

With that in mind, my first job was to clear out all the dead weeds, and the sneaky new-comers that were popping up. Then I used the old bags of compost to flatten out things a bit. And since things back there have an unfortunate tendency to slope directly toward my kitchen door, I dug a small trench and lined it with bigger stones, to try to encourage water to drain towards the side. Then, I sprayed the whole thing with Round Up, and laid down a guaranteed 15-year weed barrier, just so weeds got the idea that they were no longer welcome, thank you very much. My initial impulse was to salt the ground so that NOTING WOULD GROW THERE EVER AGAINMUU-WAH-HA-HA! But a plant loving friend convinced me that would be a fairly evil thing to do. Fine.

Then I was going to spread pea gravel as a base and put down river rocks on top. But once I had the pea gravel started, it reminded me of the beach at Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point to we gringos) in Mexico so much I kind of fell in love. I was already kind of in a Mexico frame of mind because on one of my trips to Loewe’s I had seen this candy-colored pottery planter and had an immediate case of the I-wants. So I’m creating my own little south-of-the-border hideaway. A friend has offered me a Mexican sun wall ornament. And, funnily enough, Mexican crap is easy to find here in Dallas. Add a few brightly colored chairs and a bucket of Coronas, tequila, some salt and a lime, and it will be fiesta time.

16 bags of pea gravel, 8 bags of red lava and one soar back later and I was pretty happy with my Saturday’s work. I think I may need one or two more bags of rock, but otherwise I’m on to the fun decorating bit. Nice. So here’s a pic of Puerto Julia – or at least the start of it (the vase is over in the corner waiting for a little friend to keep it company):

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