Monday, November 30, 2009

The Long and Winding Post

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we drove a lot. Three days of driving to visit 2 families, eat 2 Thanksgiving dinner and return home. And every drive took longer than expected due to traffic and accidents. Once, we saw a car on fire. That was amazing; it looked like it was burning from the back end. No one seemed hurt though. The rescue vehicles had not arrived but the people on the scene were not frantic, they were just trying to direct traffic around the burning car.

All this driving left lots of time for thinking. 'Thinking and driving, it's worse than drinking and driving.' That's from Burn This by Lanford Wilson. Or, I think it is. It can't be the actual quote, though, because you have to think when you drive. I think the quote is actually, "Thinking and drinking is worse than drinking and driving." That makes much more sense doesn't it? Although, I think drinking and driving is worse that drinking and thinking because you can't hurt someone just drinking and thinking. Or, maybe you can.

I love that play, Burn This. It was originally written as a vehicle for John Malkovich who stared in the premier at Circle Rep. I saw it years later in 2003, at Signature Theatre with Edward Norton. Such a good production - a 4 person cast and everyone was great. Well, Catherine Keener wasn't my favorite but I'm not sure if it was because Lanford Wilson didn't write the character well or that it was Ms. Keener's first time on stage.

Edward Norton was fabulous of course but then I think Edward Norton is good in everything. He's in my top 5 of celebrities who I'm allowed to date if he knocks on my door. Have you heard of this? You can have a list of up to 5 celebrities, who, if they knock your door, your significant other has to allow you to go out with that person. I know, silly juvenile stuff. But it's fun. David Bowie is also in my top 5, but you probably knew that.

Not that I'd actually say anything if Edward Norton knocked on my door; in fact I'd probably faint. Even if I met him casually, I'm sure I'd just stand there looking dumb. I'd love to be one of those people who can meet a celebrity and say something memorable but that's just not me. If I met Edward Norton, I'd stand there dumbstruck, turn beet red, and rush for the bathroom.

I know this because I did meet a celebrity once: David Sedaris, the humorist and author. I just love his books. He was appearing at a venue about an hour from my house so at the last minute I decided to go. I brought one of his books with me because the last time I had seen him he did a book signing after the gig. My plan was to have him sign my book and I'd mention something funny he had said that night during the reading and strike up a conversation.

In my mind, I'd say something really witty and he'd laugh and we'd get to talking. Maybe we'd even be friends. He might invite me to France to meet Hugh, his partner. Hey, I had an hour's drive to work on this fantasy.

But when I got to the venue, he was signing books BEFORE the event. What??? Not to be detered, I got in line. He talked a lot with the person in front of me but I figured I'd come up with something really, really witty to say. So when I held my book out to him, guess what I said?

"Can you make it out to Kate?"

Yeah, I know, not so much with the witty.

He politely asked if I was with anyone that night and I said, "No." So he wrote, "To Kate, my lonely friend." And I, wishing to say something, anything funny, said, "But I'm not lonely."

It was about that time that I started looking for the bathroom.

He held the book out firmly with eyes that said, "It's time to leave." Crushed, I took the book, and made my way to my seat. I started listening to the reading around the second story. It took me that long to convince myself that everyone in the audience wasn't staring at me and silently snickering. Actually, the stories were really good and before long I found myself laughing along with everyone else.

On the way home, though, I did some thinking and driving. I was glad that I went to the reading alone--despite Mr. Sedaris' comment--because I did not need anyone to witness my flailing in the face of fame.

And, I have to admit, it doesn't bother me that Edward Norton has no idea where I live.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I Am Grateful

Last year, on the day before Thanksgiving, I ran 6 miles for the first time in my life. To commemorate that experience, I ran 6 miles again today. As I ran, I realized how grateful I am for:
  • Being able to run at 10 am or whenever during the day, except when I'm working..
  • I work in theater - how cool is that!
  • My kids are cool. I'm serious. I find them fascinating and adorable and so damn cool. I wish I was cool when I was that young. And their friends are cool.
  • My friends are fabulous! I don't know how they put up with me. I ramble on and on sometimes, and they know just when to comment. Plus, I've reconnected or stayed connected with so many so thanks Facebook!
  • The blogging community I've gotten to know over the past year. How fantabulous are they? I could spend all day reading their blogs and comments and never writing another post in my entire life.
  • My life: I get to run, spend time with my kids, work in theater, hang with my friends, and read fantastic blogs. I am seriously grateful.
Of course that last line really says it all but I like to ramble on and on and on and to be honest, I owe this beautiful life to Brian, my husband. So, I am most thankful to him.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Running Rocky's Roads

The Philadelphia Marathon begins and ends at Eakins Oval which is situated right in front of the Rocky steps or as we in Philly like to call them, the steps to the Art Museum. A statue of Rocky was placed at the top of the steps for one of his movies--3 I think it was--and it caused a lot of controversy over the meaning of art; was the statue art or a movie prop? Rocky now resides at the bottom and to the right of the steps. Tourists can take their picture with Italian Stallion before or after running up and down the steps.

It was a beautiful day on Sunday as we lined up in our corrals for the race. Brian and I were near the back because as I've said before, I run slow. We ran down to Old City, across Penn's Landing, over to South Philly (Rocky Territory), up through University City, by the Zoo (and a killer hill I might add), and finally looping back to the Oval.

It was a great race. I have run in Philly before when I'm working on a show and it's a bit difficult to stop and negotiate traffic and pedestrians. But Sunday was great because all the roads were blocked off and the sidewalks were full of well-wishers. Our names were on our bibs so people could yell out to us as we passed. That was extremely helpful coming down along the river during the last mile: as I turned to run up into Eakins Oval, I heard a man say, "That's it Kate, that's the way to go." And it spurred me on to run in at full speed (okay, full speed after 13 miles) across the finish line.

I so enjoyed my run even though, two days later, I'm still sore; I've never run so far or so fast before but I was encouraged by the other runners, the volunteers and the on-lookers. On Sunday, I really felt that Philly is the city of brotherly love and "sisterly affection" as the Mayor added.

After the race, we returned home and our neighbors all came over to cook us brunch and make us coffee and bloody marys. Brunch turned into early afternoon appetizers and wine as people stopped by to chat with us on the porch and the kids played in the field. They discovered that someone had tossed lots of bottles and cans into the stream so they spent a good hour picking up the litter. I was duly impressed at their civic mindedness. Such a spectacular day, what a way to kick off the holiday season!

Oh, what was my time? I ran it in 2 hours, 11 minutes and 59 seconds. I almost made the 10 minute/mile pace...maybe next year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Late: Theme Thursday

When I was a little girl, six or so, my oldest brother, Matt would call me Kate Late. No one else did and no one has since. I've never been one to collect nicknames. It was his name for me.

I'd call him, Matt Fat (in my head I would spell it with 2 "t's" so it was just like Matt: Matt Fatt.) He'd say, "Kate Late." and I'd answer, "Matt Fatt."

There was neither rhyme nor reason to these nicknames. My brother, a runner for over 30 years, is not and has never been fat.

And I, well, I'm never late. Ever.

Okay, yes, I'm late every once in a while but it's rare and it usually is because of outside forces...traffic, plague, tornadoes, etc.

It might be the Stage Manager in me as I spend most of my time at work worrying about time: When is the next break? How long is the break? When does rehearsal start? How close are we to show time? How long does the show run? How far into intermission are we?

Late for me is planning to arrive at work 45 minutes before rehearsal begins in order to complete 20 minutes of work; but then arriving 40 minutes before rehearsal, ending up in a conversation, and having only 25 minutes to complete my 20 minutes of work. Yep, I'm that anal.

And, part of my job is to call people who are late. I'm all about time. Just give me a stopwatch and a clipboard and watch me go.

Brian and I used to pretend that we were late people because there seemed such a prestige associated with that trait. "Oh we are so busy we can't possibly arrive on time, our lives are so full." But truly, we are the most on-time couple I know. We've been known to go out for a drink before a dinner or a party in order not to show up exactly on time.

I might as well confess it here: I'm intolerant of late people. Perhaps that makes me an anti-late-tite but there it is. While I used to believe that late people led such full, exciting lives, now I just think, "why isn't my time important to you?"

Of course, I understand sick kids or traffic or End of Days. But just to be late...and without this day and age. Not for me. And, it's the perpetually late people that annoy me. Not the ones who say, "Hey, we're always late so start without us." That's nice. It's the ones who are always late but believe that the event--whether it's dinner or whatever--should not begin without their presence.

On the other hand, maybe their lives are just really that exciting and I'm jealous. And I should be more tolerant because I manage time well--I have to, it's my job and it's why I'm good at it. Many people do overbook themselves because time management isn't one of their strongest characteristics. Another thing I'm good at is being lazy which also makes me good with time because I never overbook myself. Someone once told me that laziness often leads to efficiency, I'm not sure how but I'm going with that one.

Well, break's over and I'm back to the real world, so I'll just leave you with this video in honor of time:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stepping Out Over The Line

It's been almost a year to the day that I started running seriously. For years, I ran 2-3 miles at a time to supplement my other workout regime, either weights or yoga. Last year, I bought a new pair of running sneakers and started tacking on the miles; I'm running (or at least planning to run) 13.1 miles this coming Sunday in the Philly half-marathon.

As I look back over this past year, I realize how much running has influenced my life. I used to worry so much about accomplishing "stuff" during the day. When I stage manage a show, I work A LOT but when I'm not doing a show, my days are my own for the most part. Oh, I have to get the kids to school and dinner on the table but the in-between is up to me.

So I'd worry that I wasn't busy enough. Everyone else talked about their hectic lives and I'd think, "What is wrong with me?"

Running has changed that perspective for me. Slowing plodding along, one step at a time, trying to get closer to the goal: life isn't a sprint to the end (at least for me), it's one step at a time. So now I worry less about how much I've accomplished and I worry much more about what I want to accomplish: I run, I volunteer, I bake and sometimes I clean and I'm doing just fine.

I don't compare myself to others either. I've run a few races in the past year never worrying about how anyone else was doing. I'm running for me; to see how I can do. And, I'll admit it, I'm rather proud of my quiet little life when I'm not doing a show. I have time for my kids, time for fun, time for...running.

Part of this new attitude I owe to the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It's a wonderful book, really well written, and I highly recommend to anyone who likes a good read (even the non-runners). He really expresses the joy and simplicity of running and why people love to run. He also de-bunks a lot of running myths such as: running hurts, people shouldn't run, you need certain gear to be a good runner. Running should be low-stress and so should life. I hope we all find that something that helps us in our everyday life. It doesn't have to be running, that's just what worked for me.

I'm still a slow runner (and I think I've gotten slower as I've upped the miles) but I run and I bake and I love it. So in honor of the book and the hobby that has given me a new lease on life, here's a video of someone who has clearly found something he loves to do; lucky for the rest of us, he's pretty good at it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Magnificently Unprepared

There is a quote from The History Boys that I often think about. Truth be told, there are many quotes from The History Boys that I think about, I do so like that play.

Anyway, there's a line that goes:

Magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of life.

It comes from a short poem by Frances Darwin Cornford (a granddaughter of Charles Darwin), about Rupert Brooke, one of the most preeminent English war poets of World War One. The entire poem reads:

A young Apollo, golden-haired,
Stands dreaming on the verge of strife,
Magnificently unprepared
for the long littleness of life.

There is something so freeing in those last two lines. No one ever tells a young person,"Yeah, you'll have some great times but sometimes you'll be bored or overworked or overworked and bored and won't be able to see the end." Or, have you ever heard a commencement speaker say,"You'll do great things graduates, take the road less traveled, etc. And, oh yeah, there will be bills to pay and diapers to change, and just when you think you're on top of the world, your spouse is going to call and wonder why you didn't pick up milk."

Now, I know that sounds just awful but it's true. Life isn't one long, glorious climb to the top. In reality, there are bills to pay and work to do and milk to buy. And for some reason, having someone put that sentiment into a work of art just makes it seem easier to handle. As if it's okay to acknowledge the monotony; or even that there is company in the boredom.

I guess I can sum it up best with yet another quote from The History Boys:
The best moments in reading (and I would add art/theater to this) are when
you come across something -- a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at
things -- which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it
is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who
is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hanging on the Telephone: Theme Thursday

Random Fun Facts about All Things Telephonic:

Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone invention in 1876, just hours before Elisha Grey patented his device to transmit speech electronically.

Yes, indeed, the first words spoken over the telephone were by Mr. Bell and they were: "Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you."

The first telephone at the White House was installed in 1877, under President Hayes. The telephone number: 1.

Operator, well, could you help me place this call?
See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded

In 1888, a coin operated telephone was patented by William Gray.

In 1892, long distance service opened between New York and Chicago.

The first song about the telephone was "Hello My Baby" in 1899.

Ev'ry single morning you will hear me yell
Hey central, fix me up along the line
He connects me with my honey and I ring the bell

"Hello Frisco, Hello New York", was written in 1915, to commemorate the first phone call guessed it: San Francisco and New York City.

One of the earliest fake numbers used in movies was: 555-2106, used in Panic in the Year Zero, 1962.

867-5309/Jenny was released in 1981, and created the fad of calling that number and asking for....Do I really need to tell you? Jenny.

Jenny, I got your number, I need to make you mine

In 1958, Wichita Falls, Texas was the first American city to institute true number calling: 7 digits without letters or names.

In 1935, the first automatic answering machine was invented by Willy Muller. The 3 feet tall machine was popular with Orthodox Jews forbidden from answering the phone on the Sabbath.

The first cell phone call was made on April 3, 1973, by Martin Cooper.

Operator, can you help me please
Give me the area code and the number that I need
Bells Are Ringing began life as a Broadway musical in 1956. The story revolved around Ella who works at an answering service.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists the first whisper in the current record holding Telephone Game as "They inherited the earth and then the army came and scorched it."

Early touch-tone phones had only 10 buttons. The * and # buttons were added circa 1968, for advanced functions.

Tick, tick, tock it's a quarter to 2
And I'm done, I'm hanging up on you

Saturday, November 7, 2009

No Other Words

A couple of weeks ago I visited The Barnes Foundation. For those who don't know about it, the Foundation is a school and museum located on the grounds of Dr. Albert C. Barnes' home in Merion, PA (a suburb of Philadelphia). Dr. Barnes devoted himself to collecting art after making a fortune by co-developing the drug Argyrol. In establishing the foundation, Dr. Barnes envisioned it as a school rather than a museum and gave detailed instructions for it's operation after his death. Dr. Barnes arranged the layout of the paintings and African art objects himself in order to show students the visual and aesthetic traditions he felt were present in all art forms.

While Dr. Barnes' will stipulates that the paintings stay exactly where they are, the Foundation ran into financial trouble in the 1990's and petitioned the court to allow it to move the museum into Philadelphia to increase public access. The court ruled in favor of the Foundation and it is set to re-locate Dr. Barnes' collection in late 2011. The ruling has, of course, caused a great deal of controversy as many people feel that Dr. Barnes' wishes should be respected.

I wanted to see the collection as originally intended by Dr. Barnes so I played hooky from my real life and spent a couple of hours at the museum. Usually when I go to a museum, I look for the explanation about the painting that is hung nearby. I like to know what I'm looking at and why it's important, etc. I especially like the Philadelphia Museum of Art because during special exhibitions there, they will give you the audio headset free of charge.

No so with the Barnes. As I went from room to room, none of the paintings had descriptions near them. In each room, there were laminated cards that told you the name of the painting, the artist, and the date (if known), and that was it. There were no such descriptions for the African art objects intermingled in each room. So I had to look at each painting for myself and decide what I wanted to see and what I thought was important.
It was a fascinating afternoon. I scrutinized facial expressions and body language. I discovered similarities between painters. I enjoyed works by my favorite artists that I had not seen before. All this without reading a word of instruction about "what to look for."

At the end of the day I was reminded of a line in The History Boys. Irwin, a teacher, is reciting a line of poetry and then he says, "In other words..." A student jumps in with (and I'm paraphrasing here):
No sir, can I stop you? With a poem or any work of art you can't say in
other words. That's why it's a work of art in the first place, there are no
other words. You can't look at a Rembrandt and say in other words can you?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Idiots

On Fridays, Baino posts the latest Friday Fuckwit. This week's is especially hilarious. I'm borrowing the idea from her for this post. While my story doesn't quite make it all the way up to Fuckwit, I do need vent to vent about the stupidity of some people.

On Wednesday, I went out for a run. I'm training for Philly's half-marathon so I decided to try 12 miles again. I had done it once before but needed to know I could still run that long. People will say that you don't have to run the entire length of the race before running the race, but I don't believe them. In the middle of the Broad Street Run--which was 10 miles--I was trying to figure out how to quit. I only finished because I had nowhere else to go.

So I'm out on Wednesday, and 1 1/2 hours into my run (oh yeah, I run slow, 10 minute miles, veeerrrrry slooooooow), and a woman pulls her car over to me with the window rolled down leaning out to ask me a question.

While I'm running.

I have running shorts on, sneakers, a baseball cap, a water bottle strapped to my ass, and HEADPHONES! And, by the way, I'm running. Do I look like I want to stop and chat?

We were in Glenside, in the middle of the day. There are TONS of places to stop to ask for directions, why do you have to stop someone in the middle of her run? I kept running because I never would have finished the 12 miles if I had stopped.

Turns out, she's not the only idiot. My husband, Brian, was out running in Philadelphia when a tourist asked him where he could find the Rocky steps (never mind they are the Art Museum steps). Brian, being soooo much nicer than I, told him. This tourist proceeded to regale Brian with how far he had walked that day and that 3 more blocks probably wouldn't kill him.

Does this guy really believe that Brian (who's running) gives a rat's ass about his physical activity for the day?

I know we should be compassionate human beings but do I really have to be nice to someone who doesn't pick up his context clues?

Running Gear+Headphones+Running=Not interested in chatting at the moment

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Theme Thursday: Castle

When Robert Altman garnered an honorary Oscar at the 2005 Academy Awards, he compared movie making to building a sand castle:

"I've always said that making a film is like making a sand castle at a beach. You invite your friends, and you get them down there, and you build this beautiful structure, several of you. Then you sit back and watch the tide come in. Have a drink, watch the tide come in, and the ocean just takes it away. And that sand castle remains in your mind."

When I first heard this, I thought, yeah, but with a movie, you at least have the film - that doesn't go away. I've always thought this metaphor was better suited to a play where it actually does go away -- the set, the props, the costumes, the actors.

But as I re-visit this idea I realize that he is talking about the actual building of the sand castle. A film is just a photograph of the sand castle, it does not convey the joy or the camaraderie or even the agony of making the perfect sand castle.

So many memories are like this: they are built with friends and then washed away by the tide only to remain in your mind.

And this idea of memories really struck me the other day when I saw another picture of a castle. I was in New York City with my kids for an audition for my daughter (she didn't get it). We were walking by a slew of posters when I noticed one of them was for The Unforgettable Fire, the re-mastered version by U2. Immediately, I was in high school in 1984, having just returned from France where I had heard U2 for the first time. U2 was just starting to get popular in the states with this album and I'm in the lunch room discussing the band with friends, thinking I know more about U2 having heard them in France.

That sand castle is long gone but it's still vivid to me. So in honor of The Unforgettable Fire and all the memories U2 has given me, here's a link to their performance at LiveAid (remember that sand castle?):

Here's to your sand castles!