Thursday, February 23, 2006

Rough Girls

So part of my job is to cut articles related to theatre from our local paper for scrapbooking purposes. The irony that someone is paying me to read the arts section is amusing enough in itself. But then, lo and behold, as I open the arts section today, this is what greets me (I recommend enlarging the pictures and scrolling through to get the full effect). And it warmed my ever-lovin' heart. Why, you ask? 'Cause I looooooove roller derby girls. Or, to put it more broadly, I love, with every cell, rough women.

Women in combat boots. Women with piercings and tattoos. Girls who like pain, girls who like to inflict pain. Girls who play rugby, or roller derby (where girls on roller skates with tattoos wear skull makeup and skate very fast, tackling and jostling each other as they try to knock opponents on their asses), girls who leave soccer fields with scraped, bloody knees and mud all over their jerseys. Women who box, who wrestle, who lift weights, who do pushups.

The other night, while channel surfing, I caught the final matchup in Oympic women's hockey. "Holy living fuck!" I thought. "There's been women's hockey all this time, and I never knew about it?" I mean, it doesn't have the skin factor that boxing, wrestling, soccer, rugby (I've only ever seen women's rugby in my dreams, but I refuse to believe there isn't such a thing) or roller derby (sigh) has, but it's hockey, for God's sake. Ever seen an ice skater's thighs? Plus I imagine the orthodontic distress of hockey, and . . . well, that's too dark and sick a place to go right now, but use your imagination.

Anyway, if you check out that link, you'll notice that most of the rollergirls are 30-ish, with such arcane day-job titles as "artifical-intelligence consultant", or such mundane ones as "paralegal". Certainly not what you'd expect, except that I can imagine that if your work is all about brain, your life needs a little brawn, a little blood and sweat, some cathartic aggression and commemorative bruising. Certainly working at a desk inspires me to make my evenings a little more viscerally rich.

I think that's what I do with my art in a way, which is why it seems somehow inaccurate to call myself a writer, an actor or a martial artist. What I really seek is the path by which I can take the contents of my mind, heart and soul, all my compassion, rage, love, violence, fear, guilt, intelligence and rhetorical fortitude and inscribe in on the world at large in flesh, blood and spit. Writing's just words, after all; and acting, aside from being most bourne of thoughts and desires other than my own, has all kinds of safety imperatives built into it. Well and good: I'm not an inconsiderate sort. But still . . .

Back in 1998, when 'Stine and I were in our early years at the local theatre company of which we were members for 8 years . . . well, I don't remember how it started exactly, but a minor tradition was established whereby the development director of the company at the time--a semi-burly football player type--would wrestle with My Amazon herself. There stood the love of my life, who-knows-how-many drinks into a Seattle summer's evening, wrestling dirty, grunting, straining, embedding deep grass stains and dirt streaks on her clothing in the development director's backyard, inspiring neighbors' calls and police visits. There she was, all six feet of her, a warrior's musculature already well established even before massage school pumped her up further. The morning(s) after, miss purple world would have purple bruises on her arms, her thighs, her ass. I'd kiss them and "make them better", which usually lead to a wrestling match of our own.

I'm glad I married a healer, an empath and an artist. But I'm even more glad I married a rough girl. Now if we can just get her some roller skates . . .

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Because I'm That Sorta Guy

Well, I've been tagged twice now, so I'll do it.

Four jobs I've had:
1. Tourist information coordinator for Downtown Improvement District (Helena, MT)
2. Construction worker/home repair
3. Clairol hair color customer service hotline
4. Docket coordinator for the legal department at the chapter 13 trustee's office

Four movies I can watch over and over:
1. Pulp Fiction
2. Donnie Darko
3. Triplets of Belleville
4. Murderball

Four places I've lived:
1. Kenoga Park, CA
2. Helena, MT
3. New York, NY
4. Jackson, WY

Four TV shows I love:
1. The Sopranos
3. Deadwood
4. Firefly

Four places I've vacationed:
1. Fern Lake (somewhere in upstate NY)
2. New York, NY
3. St. Petersburg, FL
4. Mystic, CT

Four of my favorite dishes:
1. Thai drunken noodles
2. Garlic/Spinach/Mushroom/Monerey Jack Omelette
3. Sauteed greens (kale, preferably, or collards) with lemon juice, black pepper and garlic
4. Tuna melts

Four sites I visit daily:
2. Slate/The Fray

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Kicking back pints with Paul
2. Rehearsing for "The Swan"
3. Sitting in a natural hot spring, surrounded by snow
4. Tying 'Stine up and doing terrible things to her . . .

Sorry, I'm not gonna tag anyone. Anyone I'd tag has already done it or been tagged by someone else.

Monday, February 13, 2006

In Between Days

So yesterday--February 12th, 2006--marked the 12th anniversary of 'Stine's and my "couplehood". We've been having sex for a few months longer than that, and have been friends for a little over a year longer than that, but February 12th, 1994 was when we started "dating". Come August, we will have been married for ten years.

Whoa, huh?

Sitting wedged between this anniversary and Valentine's day, I thought I'd be forgiven for using this in-between-day as an occasion to remind everyone what a glorious spot I'm in, and for paying an homage to the woman who's given me most of what I have worth keeping.

When I first met Christine--late September, 1992--I hit on her. Not all that consciously, really; at 20, I hit on attractive women without really trying or being particularly aware of it. With her impressive stature and cartoon-character eyes, she won me over as . . . what, exactly? I was at a socially isolated place in my life, trapped in an ugly undertow with an ex who kept pulling me back out to sea for the sort of "misery sex" that college exes sometimes have when they can't find anyone else willing to have sex with them. 'Stine was everything the not-to-be-named party wasn't: giddy, generous, romantic, naive despite harrowing experience, open-minded despite clear moral conviction and pointed aesthetic preference.

I imagine, in hindsight, that we were doomed to frustrate each other endlessly; her devotion to new agey principles like relativism, positivism and unconditional love clashed with my love of dissonance, my belief in chaos and my inability (to this day) to accept the notion of being loved on any other basis than for my own merit (hence conditional--and hence my difficulty in appreciating either parental or divine love). What was funny was that our opposition felt fun, whereas my rivalries with . . . the other girl were usually characterized by acrimony, deliberate cruelty, mockery and disdain.

Our early friendship stumbled through at least one complete miss of an attempted sexual encounter (attempted by me, which is, of course, why it failed), and was interrupted before it really got started by my suicide attempt in December of 1992. A piece of trivia that wouldn't come to my attention until later: As I realized through the heavy limbs and psychic stupor of the 80-or-so sleeping pills I'd taken about an hour before that I didn't want to die, I called the aforementioned ex, out of the aforementioned perception that no one else gave a fuck. Unbeknownst to me, Christine was AT the girl's apartment at the time. Small world and all that . . .

As the remainder of that school year played out, with my hiding my suicide attempts and its attendant bills from my parents, seeing a therapist on campus to avoid forced hospitalization or medication, scrambling to regain my academic composure after spending fall-quarter finals getting my stomach pumped, I found myself reaching out less blindly, but with greater transparency, to the people who were in my life but not fully integrated as friends or confidants. Christine had a way of listening to me compassionately while deflating my reflexive seriousness with warm, giggly humor, the occasional cutting insight and a consistent context of "I think this chick might be crazy, but DAMN she's entertaining." Her support and friendship to me during this time was a huge boon to my recovering from . . . well, from where I'd been before (the story of my suicide and how I got there could be the subject of its own post).

After an awkward-but-fun near-sexual encounter in March of 1993 (on the day I got my nose pierced, natch), and a far more successful (finally!) sexual liaison exactly 6 days before Thanksgiving '93, we moved from friends to friends-with-benefits for a few months before finally deciding on February 12,1994 that it was time, as I'd put it, to stop making a molehill out of a mountain and doing this for real. I was vulnerable that day, coming down off of LSD from the night before, sluffing my volunteer duties as a judge for a high-school debate meeting and trying to keep Christine from ditching me to have sex with a good friend who'd driven down to Cedar City from Logan for a booty call (we were frequent but NOT exclusive lovers). In hindsight, I probably would have had a good case for a temporary insanity plea (the statute of limitations is SO over by now). Sidelined that spring by a temporary breakup, we finished that spring in an essentially positive spot, increasing our levels of transparency, intimacy and vulnerability, and creating a strange community of misfits that included our own Missuz J and amandak.

That next fall, we found ourselves sharing an apartment during the turbulent Cedar Crest Year. At the end of that school year, June 1995, when 'Stine graduated and it became apparent that I never would, we moved to Salt Lake City to live with her delightful, insane mother for the summer and into the fall, all the while saving up funding to move to Seattle to . . . well, that was less than clear. I had vague notions of being a playwright, though I hadn't written anything in the year + that had passed since an ill-fated production of a play that will likely never again see the light of day, and an old high school friend (or rather, a friend from when I was in high school--she was in college at the time) who was on the staff of an Open Circle Theatre had been reading my scripts and giving me great encouragement. Christine still had interests in pursuing acting opportunities. Really, though, we wanted to live in a city with liquor and theatres and art films and public transportation, so we packed up and moved to the nearest city of any cultural distinction where we happened to know anyone. Seattle it was to be.

We married in August of 1996 under a weeping willow in a back yard on Beacon Hill. Our self-written vows were punctuated by blasts from the Blue Angels, exhibition pilots flying blue F-15s and annoying anyone not given to public bursts of militaristic, patriotic bravado. Our wedding mix had a Nine Inch Nails song on it, and I wore motorcycle boots. Our photographer was a street troll from the Pike Place Market named Bobby, who had a beard down to his groin and wore flamboyant tie die at the ceremony, chewing a toothpick and scaring the hell out of 'Stine's family. We got too drunk too fast, and as a result didn't "consummate" until the next day; but it was really just an afterthought, really, 'cause we already knew we had great sex.

We've stumbled back into theatre since then, I rediscovered my lost passion for martial arts and she's made good on her natural talent for bodywork. Our marriage, like all marriages, has had its ups and downs, its drunken revelry, its sexual deviances, its encounters with cops and its visits to correctional facilities. And it's always had its great sex, its open dialogue. In short, it's been human, and it's been spectacular.

What can I say about Christine? I can say that no one shares the way she shares. No one embodies true generosity so thoroughly, so ceaselessly, so unconditionally. She will always speak the truth, which can drive me to distraction as often as not. She likes to be naked.

She's taught me that the meritocratic understanding of love and a belief in true, unconditional love aren't mutually exclusive. She's softened my misanthropy, and correctly pointed out all of the ways in which clearly even I don't believe my own hype on the matter. From her, I've learned what a powerful weapon warmth and humor can be; from her, I've learned that beating up on myself is counter to my self improvement. We've gotten a lot of good practice at forgiveness from each other, and the importance of that gift, on either side, cannot be properly valued.

I love to hear her sing, to watch her perform. I love the way she cries at tawdry "human interest" stories on news magazine shows, or at any given episode of Miracle Pets. I love the way she has to build a pillow sculpture, put in earplugs, wrap her head in a turban to keep the light out and flop around like a dying carp for half-an-hour before she can get to sleep. I love that she puts so much syrup on her waffles that there's a veritale wading pool on her plate by the time she gets done, a sheet of gravy following her (divine) fried chicken, greens and mashed potatoes. I love that she shaves the lower half of her leg and her bikini line while opting out of shaving her thighs (??--I mean, as we know, I don't care; but it's the reasoning that fascinates). I love that she'll put ranch or blue cheese dressing on anything. I love that she can't eat ice cream without pouring milk on it. I love that pouty face she makes when she wants to spend money or do anything she thinks I won't want to do. I love that she's into sex toys, that she's an experimenter. I love that she wants sex as much as she does. I love that she grew up Mormon while I grew up Catholic, that she's a buddhist to my quasi-nihilistic, crypto-Taoist gnosticism. I love that she's enough of a fag hag to marry this slapdash slob of a metrosexual. I love that we can drink beer and do housework together, and she squeals with delight when I put on the cutoff T-shirt that says "Pussy Boy" when I scrub the bathroom. I love that half her wardrobe is purple (as are many of our sex toys).

If I didn't love all those things, 12 years would have been a very long time.

So happy anniversary, doll, and happy Valentine's day. Here's to 10 or 12 more.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Flesh to Feather

So now that the cast list is officially posted and what not, I can tell you that I've been cast in The Swan by Elizabeth Egloff. I'm more excited for this project than I have been for any in a while, and as such, I fear failure with every cell. Of course I should embrace failure, to be consistent in my values, but I'm still working on that. Hypocrisy, like passive-aggression, is really just a function of having aspiration, since some failure is an inevitable side effect of persistent, repeated effort.

Anyway, the play is a fascinating little fantasy in which I get to break out some zoomorphic physical work. I'll appear nude in this one, as well (whether you consider that a warning or you consider that an enticement, you're right), so thelyamhound will be busting his canine ass to drop about 10 lbs. over the next two months. Wish me luck on that.

Auditioning was interesting in the context of my ongoing struggle with identity and its relationship to art. I will never be able to fully give up acting, any more than I can fully embrace the acting industry. In light of my work schedule and financial needs, I decided some time ago that I would only audition for shows that sound genuinely exciting, and stop doing shows as favors to friends or, far worse, as perceived stepping stones to some perception of legitimacy (a concept I despise, unless of course I happen to want it at the moment). When I got an email asking me to audition for this one, I was skeptical. But then I looked at the synopsis, and the sides . . . and something about this one just . . . I don't know, just seemed to call to me. It just seemed so right. So right that I was able to embrace the notion that it wouldn't work out, paradoxically. I auditioned knowing both that this was the right role for me, that I was right for the role, and that I might very well fail. That great cosmic buzz of caring-but-not-caring . . . oh, I tell ya . . . Why can't I feel that way all the time?

Anyway, it paid off. I got cast, I'm working with some cool folks, and I think it's gonna be awesome. I mean, if we can pull it off. If I can pull it off.

Also, the role I'm playing was played by Peter Stormare, opposite Frances MacDormand, in 1993. And that's cool.

I was laid out with a back spasm last Monday (probably the result of some misguided attempts to shock those 10 lbs. off in one fell swoop on Sunday morning). It's feeling better now. I wish I had something more interesting to add to that, but there you are.

Funny thing about that: I checked a website yesterday for some dietary information--not for weight loss, strictly speaking (I'm trying to improve my overall health, which is fine but could always be better), although I did note that I was interested in dropping a few pounds by April--and they had me put in things like height and weight. According to the BMI, I'm overweight. Now those of you who know me (in real life) know how neurotic I am about every pinch of fat I can scrape together; and while I feel that, to look (for acting purposes) and feel (for human purposes) my absolute best, I could afford to lose 5-10 lbs., I do NOT, in any way, shape or form, see myself as overweight. Has anyone ever found the BMI chart to be . . . just, I don't know, weird? Maybe there are questions of frame or musculature that need to be addressed. Maybe I'm delusional. Maybe I'm just American. Whatever it is, it struck me as odd.

I'm still sitting on a lot of writing--it's harder to get any sort of writing program started than it is to start acting again, especially when my primary interest seems to be writing screenplays & rock operas (neither of which I know how to do) and write for myself (my motives for which I'm always second guessing). And while all writers will have varying thoughts on this matter, it's my finding that the writing I force myself to do when I have no inspiration pretty much invariably ends up in the recycle bin. It's neither here nor there, since I still have two jobs to work, lines to memorize and a weighty book of biblical-era text to finish; but I need to assure myself that I haven't stopped trying to find a place in the chaos, or abandoned my intent to re-explore my writing. I've just abandoned myself a little more to whims of chance and intuition.

It also occurred to me that being a physical actor--and I think it's fair to say that I am one--bears a useful relation to being a writer, because the physical actor has a level of freedom in creating a "text" of sorts that's bound to, yet independent (ultimately) of, the written text at hand.

My other theatre group, UMO, is having its retreat in June. A longtime colleague, also a relatively recent inductee into the company, has proposed our creating a "routine" that can be used for onsite gigs (corporate or artistic events where we perform clown routines, sketches or ongoing improv in a crowd situation--onsite gigs = good money for not too much work). It may be an interesting opportunity, both for making money in the industry without interfering with my day job or wasting time on unpalatably middlebrow projects and also for learning a bit about creating text for physical acting.

Ultimately, I can only go forward, with whatever caution or circumspection I care to apply. My greatest fear? That I'm a dilletante, looking for a place in the art world because what I crave is the artistic lifestyle. My greatest dream? I don't know. So I guess I'd best find one.