Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Space Baby in a Bubble

Rubbing one's face is the most childish procrastination ever, (I was just doing it.)  I wish I didn’t do it (I did it again,) but I catch myself doing it all the time. I don’t even know I’m doing it most of the time.  It just looks dodgy.  You shouldn’t touch your face.  The only people that touch their face are babies and junkies. Or models, but that’s only in photo shoots.  

I recently went to Float in one of those zero gravity floatation tanks - it was weird and at times creepy, but the most comfortable place I’ve been since the womb. It was weird for obvious reasons - I’m paying, well, (I didn’t pay, but a fan paid for me - where the weirdness begins, but that’s the kind of weird I’d like to encourage.  It’s all good weird actually, but that doesn’t make it less weird.) somebody paid for me to be alone in a very small room in the dark for 90 min.  Room is a generous word, it’s a place, a pod.  For the most part it was creepily normal, just a little off normal - like the intense eyed but barefoot and very chilled bearded dude who greeted me, or the equally glassy other guy that I eventually followed back to my chamber.  I got the sense that either one of them could be used as a floatation device in the unlikely event of an emergency.  I got an orientation to the showering system and how to plug my ears, start the timer, operate the lights or switch on music, and strangest of all, just as I’m getting preliminary Sci-Fi vibes, just as his bro-monotone voice was starting to sound a bit HAL, I was told that I was totally in control.  This is going to be a first in a few ways, then.

He warned me about getting the salty water in my eyes and used the words God-forbid, which made me more afraid of the water than I had thought about being.  I guess that’s the point of a warning.   He also told me not to trip into the tub, just to step over the edge.  Like he’d seen my act.  It had never occurred to me to stub my foot on this 4 foot wall and fall headfirst into this dangerously salinated tub.  I feared now, though, as I’m in a suggestible mood.  All the staff seemed a bit brainwashed, come to think of it, but I wasn’t afraid of that.  I wanted that kind of a clean brain - that look that they really weren’t struggling with any decisions.   Maybe theres an overlord making all the decisions for them, but they were good listeners and didn’t judge.  He left me alone and I did the whole ritual backwards. I didn’t mean to, but sometimes that happens - I’m dyslexic with directions, I'm dysrexic.  So I had to get in and out of the pod a couple of times, because I forgot some steps that were clearly important or HAL wouldn’t have explained it so thoroughly.  He was a marble eyed baby faced dude with short dark hair like a Mormon.  I forgot to ask him how old he was, but fully expected, in my Sci-Fi daze, for him to say he was 121 years old.  Just step in to this anti-aging pod and stay for 100 days, you too will be reborn.  He told me he’d be back to tuck me in, which clanged around in my ears for a minute, but when I got back from the bathroom (they’d asked me first if I wanted to go, but I chose to do it last, or just before last, after I forgot to do the thing they told me to do first and then had to do even laster, after I’d already em-podded. I had to de-pod and re-pod, but that wasn’t too hard.  The lid was light, just like he said it would be, and also made me feel totally in control.) It was the other dude, Bearded HAL, who got all my personal information on an etch-a-sketch tablet.  I couldn’t figure out how to work the calendar.  He was very helpful.  

Laying down in the white pod, lowering the feather-light lid, and pressing the go button for the lights to go off, I did not expect the space age sounds but they were not unwelcome.  It was actually the most familiar touchstone in the moment, and I didn’t want to let go of all my senses just yet.  I’m a sensual woman.  What would this feel like? The water was skin temperature, not warm, not cold, and it was so dense, the top half of my body was above the water level.  Ears plugged and just below the surface, the music was in another galaxy anyway.  Only slightly larger than my own body (it looked like it would be a good coffin for fully grown twins that had an 80’s color bath kind of aesthetic.) For the first few minutes, as I floated on the water I had disturbed by becoming a part of it, I would occasionally bump in to the side walls.  Every time I occasionally met the wall, there was a corresponding echoing sound from the distant speaker.  And the gentle vibration sent a reverberation up that limb gently towards the center of me. The sounds and sensations were so coordinated that for a moment I imagined the pod was living and responding with it’s own new age language.  The water was slightly viscous, like you might expect the inside of an alien AI organ to be.  I don’t want to say slimey, because it felt great, clean but rich.  Like clean is usually the opposite of rich.  These days I guess it is. 

I keep touching my face now because that magnesium epsom salt bath has made me so soft. That and I wasn’t allowed to touch my face for that whole 90 minutes.  They didn’t say that, but it’s a rule I gave myself because of the salt in the eyes thing.  About maybe an hour into it, after the music had stopped and I’d let my brain wander wherever it wanted to go, while leaving my body completely inert, with absolutely nothing to do to sustain or support me - NOTHING - that’s the new experience, where did my mind go? Hither thither really, I can’t say I thought anything super deep.  I can’t remember much of what I thought at all.  In fact, I may have died - I was so inert.  I had no sensations in my body at all.  I guess that’s the closest I’ve ever really come to actual meditation, actually thinking/feeling nothing so thoroughly that you escape this plane - Looking back, I felt like the space baby at the end of 2001 floating in amniotic space fluid, and occasionally having starry visions of the whole elephant, not just the part I am usually blindly groping down here on earth. Yes that was a flashback to a ayahuasca journey from 15 years ago. The even older image of the circle within the circle came through for a visit, too.  But the ball bobbed on - this long lyric of relaxing my grasp on myself.  Let it go, let it go! It’s a sing-along with all the molecules! I think I might have actually done it. 

I came to, say an hour or so into it, and decided consciously to rejoin my body.  The salt on the dry surface of me had crusted over and my body felt stiff from inaction, and inertia, the opposite of my newfound mind freedom. So, I chose a few other positions to float there in, wanting for my body to also take advantage of the experience.  I mean, when is a fan ever going to treat me to a floatation chamber on a day off in St. Louis again? Those asanas felt great too, and though suddenly I had a body again, there was nothing I could do to make it not feel great.  How often am I in pain, just dull, achy, pain that I tune out of, change the channel on?  And then the itch began.  The itch on my right nostril that I could not would not touch.  It was a game now. Change the channel, if you’re so in tune with the universe!  I couldn’t touch my face, god forbid.  Go back there.  Go back to the milky way that embraced you like a yoga pose - union with all the stardust.  If you don't have a body, you won't have an itch.  My eyes were closed, but behind the lids, I bet they were shining with the intensity of a bearded HAL, doing everything in my power to let go of the total control I’ve been given.  I did not scratch the itch.  My heart rate slowed.  I barely breathed.  I may have disappeared, there’s no way of knowing, no sensual evidence to the contrary.  When the music came back in, gently, from very far away indeed, I couldn’t help but laugh that they’d chosen a synth orchestra version of “Where Is My Mind.”  A fitting tribute to the floating parts of us, lost and found, as we bump against walls, feel and forget them, forgetting momentarily that we exist. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Velvet ropes of the first world

I find velvet ropes fascinating.  It’s a visual metaphor that gets used in reality way too frequently.  Which ever side of the velvet rope I find myself on, it’s not the right side.  Of course, access is the name of the game, in politics, society, technology, economy, you name it.  If the grass is always greener on the other side, then she who has access to either side, wins.  But doesn’t that mean the velvet rope disappears completely in a happy ending? Or are some people actually happier if there is a velvet rope in front of them that others cannot cross?  Perhaps it really is just exclusivity that defines luxury.  If you put a velvet rope around some poop, people will want to step in it.

Not everybody wants luxury.  Most people just want comfort.  Some are even simpler, looking for sustainability.  Any state is ok, as long as it’s stable.  Others require a more dynamic state of affairs: novelty above all else.  But even for people that don't actively seek luxury, a special offer of anything, made to only a few, gets everybody imagining that it could be them.  What if it was me?  What if I got in?  I might be exposed to a whole other experience, that would lift me and my little life out of this gutter I find myself in on this side of the rope.  Suddenly, my comfortable/stable/dynamic lifestyle looks pitiful, compared to whatever I’m not being allowed to have.  Whatever or whoever is behind that rope, has got it.  That poop is the shit. 

I went to a birthday party at a club last night.  It was the kind of club I never go to at home in NY, although I’m sure there are plenty like it.  Out on tour with a circus, in a cast with young and beautiful Europeans in the flush of fitness, I go with glee.  I will show them how an old school G boogies and conduct my own sociological studies between cocktails. We have organized, via friends of friends, to have access to a special VIP area in a club in order to celebrate the birthday of a pair of friends, twin Scandinavian blonde contortionists.  Our entry has been waved along with the drink minimum and the all important wait at the door, in the rain, with all the riffraff of the Reeperbahn that is not on the list.  I have stepped in the shit.  And I do feel lucky. 

I cross three velvet ropes to reach the VIP area.  It is behind the bar, a meter wide space that was probably originally meant as a way for kegs to get from the back room to the bar without having to traverse the dance floor.  I say that, because that’s what happened all night.  There was another group on the other side of another velvet rope, in the same kind of space.  Perhaps there was another rope beyond them, that they were also given the privilege to cross, or maybe they, too, were riffraff that just happened to abut our rope. I question silently how many ropes they got to cross in order to stand behind the bar in this crossway that amounts to a service road for bar backs.  At one point, in the beginning of the night, I feel penned in, the space is not enough, there are too many of us. Perhaps it’s better on the other side, out in the open.  I cross the rope.  I am given a pair of glow-glasses (that a lucky, very visible few in the club are sporting) and invited to dance on the bar.  I do. I have now crossed the rope into the real party.  But then I notice they cannot dance, and know that I have stepped into boring territory.  I return behind our ropes, and dance on our section of the bar.  The man asks for his glow-glasses back.  I return them with relief.  They are a migraine waiting to happen.  That shit stinks. 

Ultimately, we have a great time.  With the exception of sojourns to the restrooms, we stay behind our ropes, in our tiny section of the bar of a much bigger club that I never explore.  Why would I, when all my friends are here?  We behave abominably and it cracks us up.  The velvet rope keeps all the other riffraff away from us and keeps us riffraff away from them.  When people want to walk through, I make them dance through, like a troll that thinks he owns the bridge.  Some folks ask if we can take down the rope and I drop it immediately.  I was feeling penned in, anyway.  They seemed ready for a fight about it, that never happened.  They never came in. Once the rope was down, it didn’t look that attractive, after all, I guess.  Their Scandinavians were just as blonde as ours.

I try and stay out of the way of the guys carrying kegs.  They are the real VIPs.  They know the velvet ropes are just a way to make people feel special in otherwise very normal situations, and by separating people into tribes that have their own customs, they keep fights to a minimum.  But like most borders, they’re a pain in the ass if you’ve got someplace to go.  

I think about the refugees, fleeing from the world's most unstable, uncomfortable, terrible situations on earth.  It seems people that have been living behind the velvet ropes of the first world see these horrible situations as if it was like my night at the club, but it’s not.  Unless people in one corner of the club were getting systematically brutalized, starved and murdered and we still didn’t let them come behind our ropes until they waited in line in the rain, paid an entrance fee, got their bodies and bags searched, came with references from friends behind the ropes, bought the drink minimum and then did a dance to get through.  But that shit would be ridiculous.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

In search of an Abundant Font of Tupperware, or Suspended in Switzerland

There are so very many strange things that tour does to one's life.  I could start to list them here, but I'm already depressed by that list.  So let me begin rather with a cataloguing of the craziness that's been happening recently, on this very specific tour.  I am living in a small hotel room, underneath the Zurich airport.  This, in itself, is not so crazy unless you're me, and you got to be at home for a full 5 months this summer, blissfully at ease in your Brooklyn apartment with your husband and dog and friends and the like.  This is the longest I've been home in 13 years.  I counted.  This might explain why I am feeling more than usually wistful being so unceremoniously displaced.  One day, at the beginning of this week, I found myself here, equipped with a kitchenette, a small shower in the water closet, a double bed with pillows like crumpled up leather jackets, and a desk.  I brought the other requisites of a computer, portable speaker, and way more clothes than I need.

I find myself at the beginning of these experiences strangely without.  My short spare time is directed by what I do not have, rather than where I am, per se.  Besides the obvious, I am without scotch tape, without tupperware, without salt and pepper, without a clock, without sleep.  And it doesn't matter so much, actually.  There are so many other things to do, like build a show; write, translate and memorize text in German, meet new people, learn new songs, create a character, find a new way of moving, talking, and dancing.  Because almost everything that I do have with me, which is also a lot, is new.  This could explain why I usually overpack with hol(e)y, old clothes.

So, I try not to dwell in what I do not have.  It's tedious.  The list is so long.  But also because I have trained myself to know deeply that I do not lack for anything.  I have spent the summer swimming in the deep and supportive waters of my abundance.  Whatever I need, I have been learning, I need only to give and I will find it pouring out from the generous font of the universe.  And yet, what do I do now, give the scotch tape I don't have?  To whom?  Why and how?  I am certain of the abundance of tupperware in the universe, but I have not found the local font.    I find creative ways to save the leftovers of the surprisingly good dish prepared without salt and pepper, on what could be called negative counter space.   I prop up the pictures of my husband and dog and friends and the like on the edges of books or use toothpaste to stick them to the tiles.  They fall down in the night.  I hear them, because I am not asleep.  It's tempting to get up to replace them.  Standards.  We must have standards, even on the road.

Yesterday, I waited in our cold, beautiful circus tent for 6 hours until my time would be used to effect.  Today, they yelled at us for being 10 minutes late back from a lunch break I worked through anyway.  I'm not writing this post to complain.  It's just time I'm thinking about, and it's value.  Time, too, needs to be given away to be given back.   But in this moment, it is out of balance.  It will come back.

There is no director on this show, but there is a documentary team.  There is a producer, the handsome son of the richest man in Switzerland, and a choreographer, a Camden man who speaks in Spanish to the dancers and in condescension to some of the artists.  The more sensitive among them, takes offense.  They tell each other to shut up and the tension flares.  The documentary team blithely, curiously, films the dancers.  The highly skilled, beautiful, young, German acrobat being given the diva treatment is a friend of mine.  "Please don't go. Please don't go,"  I whisper to myself and try to communicate to his hardening eyes.  I don't want him to feel small, but selfishly, I don't want to do the show without him.  He is a friend from from at least 5 years ago.  And that makes him a treasure, out here, under the airport where everything and everyone else is new.   He comes back to the fold after several trips out of the tent with various powers that be.  He is breathing deeply, finally respected.  The choreographer is making pains to act extra jovial for the camera.  I keep wishing I'd at least put on lipstick, and just as quickly, I give it up.

Our circus tent is also under an airport.  The Air Force Dübendorf lets this kinky circus use a patch of their military base to set up shop for a couple of months.  Out the back of the tent, where the muscled and agile float above their various props, came rolling by a silver WWII transport plane.  The hawks above the field flew nowhere.  Just riding the thermals, wings spread, dead still in the air.

The character I'm playing is the Chief of Police.  A hard woman, engaged in the show to scrutinize the goings on and maintain a level of conformity, morality, and punish those who diverge.  My costumes were handmade by a Moldovian woman with whom I speak French.  Her costumes for me are titless corsets, fringed trains, and jeweled collars.  Besides not having the expected ample tits to put in the corsets, the costumes were not quite right.  She gave them away to some other unsuspecting dancer.  I will forage under the other airport tomorrow, the proverbial forest floor, for something more apropos.

By the way, the town I try to sleep in is called Kloten.  When I was 17, I took a senior year abroad in the Netherlands, and now, almost uselessly, I speak Dutch.  I say almost uselessly because at least I understood immediately that this Swiss suburb, if it was settled by the Dutch, was named very appropriately, Ballsack.

The beginning of tour is the hard part.  Please forgive my lack mentality.  I am lucky to be alive, an artist, and working.  It's just that every part of that sentence is also, just a little humiliating, on the road.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Higgs Bosun and You

Well well well, a basically unstable particle at the center of the universe explains a lot about this week, doesn't it?

Marion Dimali (Theatre Director, Vienna): "so, in what way ist the finding of the "god particle" explaining the election of the new pope, who is about to become the biggest scientific backlash since galileo galileis excomunikation in his bringing back of the devil to the katholic church? ;)"

G:  Instability of the material world, Darl; entropy is certain, the way things fall apart eventually. Like the papacy, my accounting, and all things bad and beautiful. The particles of us, even the God-particles of us, are temporal, finite and inherently flawed. There's something very reassuring to know that even God shows his crack when you get him in the right position. 

The Bindlestiff's 19th Cabaret and the New Joints downtown

Whereupon, our carnie NY clan, The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus are celebrating 19 years of throwing shiny things in the air and actually catching them, putting other things down an esophaguses (esophagi?) like Tequila and swords, the feather and fringe and fishnet and pinstripe plaid serve as ceremonial garb.  The ritual: raunchy jokes, weird skills, and derring do, so stupid or unbelievable you laugh every time, Kinko's slow and steady gentleman hobo welcomes everyone with a tip of the hat, and Mr. Pennygaff will surely take over to win the race, despite his recently blotto'ed assistant, the Mistress of gams and hams, Philomena Bindlestiff.  Adam struts his hilariously awkward, birdlike self, and the acts all strut their stuff, new and classic.  Where we all came up and through and will always be true - they are still persevering in the challenge of bringing quality live variety entertainment with grace and edge to  modern Americans.  Nice stuff, folks.

It was also the first chance I've had to check out the new Slipper Room.  It was recently renovated from being epic-but-hole-sized Burlesque Bar, into a super-stylie, 1930's Parisian cabaret room with Art Nouveau balconies (and Fleur de Lis wallpaper and all the details deco'ed deliciously).  Too bad there weren't enough chairs on the ground floor to see the show from down there.  Seemed like logistics got the best of them as there was plenty of room, just no chairs.  The backstage is also laughable, but with great wallpaper, featuring one tiny dressingroom off the stage with a toilet in the corner.  Can you imagine the teams of feathered fillies and drag queens and acrobats and jugglers warming up and squeezing in for last looks in the one little mirror?  The decline of production numbers in variety shows these days comes as no surprise, lets just say.  Can't wait to work there myself sometime, soon I hope.  Looks like a fun stage to skate on, and the sound and lights were terrific with great staff, I hear.  I've been anticipating this reno from afar, so it was very satisfying to be so delighted with the outcome.  One word to performers - look up or die (your roots before) playing here.

We dropped in at the new Duane Park in the old Bowery Poetry Club space after the show.  Also incredibly chic with white stenciled walls, crystal chandeliers and the smell of great food.  A gentleman with a tight suit and a killer voice emcee'd the much larger (then their other Tribeca) space with authority and ease, with the feeling of a practiced talent show winner but sadly none of the edgy surprise of your more downtown denizen hosts.  He introduced the ladies with enthusiasm and class, though, which is more than can always be said of some of your sub-standard, downtown denizen hosts.  One after the next, very beautiful, very poised burlesque dancers glid gracefully down the stairs to the tiny (eventually hydrolically lifting!) side stage.  They stripped in their own glamorous ways and then the most unfortunate person in the club (with the prettiest smile), the "stage kitten" in the Swarovski G-string and silicon parts crawled around the stage picking up dropped dainties.  She is obviously lovely but I felt so bad for her.  Darl, crawling is no good for you.  Either bend over cause you want to give the folks a thrill, or get a long stick, and put your gum on the end of it to pick up Salome's dropped veils.  I hear they will have aerials within the week and if the inimitable Ekaterina has her way, the vibrant Georgian contorsionist/aerial artist will help orchestrate the novelty-actization of the apparently sometimes strictly Burlesque affair.  Whoever works there will have to be pretty strong to keep up with it all, and be heard or minded, over the din of heady late-night appetites.  I, for one, would love to sing with that band.  Hot and tight jazz, gentleman.  Taking a first class header down those stairs someday seems perhaps too obvious to avoid.  Again, I can hardly wait.

The third exciting opening of the week was Stephen Michael Rondel's (Director of the former Children's Aid Society New Acting School and Sullivan St. family theatre company)  Celebration of Whimsy (aka The COW).  They just moved in, taking over the space from The Living Theatre who had been occupying for 6 years.  In the large basement space, the stage is large and reminiscent of the old PS122 (though not as wide or well funded) with industrial pillars cornering the playing space.  The bar will have a beer and wine license within the week, and the backstage is perfect: roomy and equipped with large desks, racks, mirrors.  Eventually they'll be fully moved in, starting classes for kids and adults, with all their production costumes put away, and the small room in the back will be made available for rehearsals or further storage.  The swirl of thespians getting all jazzed about their next opus in this accessible and exciting new venue feels good for the soul.  Rondel's monthly new works showcase is Muffins in the Window, celebrating 6 years of artists and audience together facing the giddy challenge of the new.  First Thursdays for the next 10 years, God-particle willing.  Congratulations, Stephen and Tyler and Greg and you all, on your new lease on life - you COW.  Moooo.

All in all, as I take in the state of the arts in NY, where my fellow freaks and fabulosities have been holding court in all the time I'm out there on the road, I'm impressed, thrilled, jealous, heartened by old friends and eager to join back in the fun of all the glitter, sweat, and tears that is the NY Downtown Variety scene.  If only I didn't keep running off...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mimi's Lament

It's raining, it's pouring, and our old dog is snoring.  I can't get myself to do any of the work I'm supposed to be doing - writing or rehearsing the new show, working on the music, editing the video (that we shot this weekend and then promptly left the cards upstate, making it impossible to edit - off the hook on that one).  Let alone prepare the looming taxes, unpack, even schedule rehearsal space or sign back up at the gym.  It's all a bit much.  Our dog, Mimi, is finally showing her age.

Mimi is an Italian Greyhound (Mimi is short for Milan), and at 14 years old she is about 72 in human years.  Until this past weekend we've always said she's still a puppy, because Grandma Mimi always greeted us with a tap dance and happily jumped 3x her body height to give our asses high-10's, if she ever smelled meat.  She is an elegant, yet goofy friend, with a big heart, highly articulated ears, long legs and a tiny waistline.  She is small of stature but enormous in bed.  Her breed was the first ever domesticated dog, designed to warm the beds of royalty.  When I got back from my recent 101 show, 5 month tour of duty, she and I slept together for 35 hours straight.

So, now that she's given to crying, collapsing, and not eating the homemade meals my wonderful Italian husband prepares for her, I am having a hard time focusing on the stupid comedy routines that I call work.  We go to the vet in an hour.  Wish us all strength.