Monday, February 15, 2016

An Honest Living

I have been meaning to address this for a long while.

It's a pride issue.
It makes an anger-bubble pop up inside me, on the subway, on a run, in the grocery store.
I gently put my finger up and end its life with a they-don't-know-any-better.

Maybe it is my job to let them know better.

Instead of harboring ill will. Instead of keeping the self-worth in an easy to reach a place where I can defend and coddle it. Instead, maybe it's best for them to learn a little lesson.  It's okay to make them feel humbled, uneducated, and ashamed for being....well....rude.

Here is the plain and simple truth: people sometimes need to work more than one job.  Not only people in the arts, but also people who are looking to improve the world through political action, or people who are school teachers, or people who, as lawyers, work pro bono for causes that help change lives for the greater good.  In many walks of life, it is possible that a second job is needed.

This second, or third, or even forth job should not diminish a person's view of another person's worth.

I live in New York City.  My last apartment cost me $1200 a month.
For a bedroom.
In a shared apartment.
Above a dive bar.
That was falling apart.

This is not a crazy NYC story. This is what may be considered a good deal by a few people.
Still, it's a lot of money.

A common rule of thumb is that a person's rent should equal one forth of their salary.  As a working actor, this can be an impossibility.  For instance: A Tier One Equity Contract pays $625 dollars per week for a "midsized" theater (that is a theater with 699 seats or less).  To give a little perspective on this, the New York Public Theater's biggest indoor space, the Newman, only seats up to 299.
Let me do the math for you: If my rent is $1200, and I got a dream role of performing at The Public Theater, I would only have $1300 left to pay for utilities, food, and fun.  Forget about having a savings. Also, keep in mind that my neighborhood grocery store sells cereal for $6 a box.  Nothing in New York City is cheep.   The crowded, smelly, filled with crazy people subway is $2.75 a ride.  My $20 metro card always runs out in a surprising amount of time.

Money, money, money.

Currently, I am a full time performer.  I love my performance job.  I also love teaching comedy.  I truly love it, and feel lucky that I get to do two things that fill my meager bank account.

I have tended bar off and on for years.  I have made many friends through working behind the stick, and I even met my husband while behind the bar.  When I was on a solo tour making $50,000 a year, I actually missed bartending. Did I miss the late nights or serving the occasional mean customer?  Of course not.  I missed the money.  Honestly, I almost went into debt on that tour.  It simply was not enough money for a person like me to live in New York City. (Disclaimer: you can live in certain neighborhoods on that salary.  I enjoy living in Brooklyn near many trains, and I also love taking advantage of what the city has to offer: restaurants, theater, other fun adventures.)

Point being, if I have not seen you for a while, and you ask how I am doing and I say "Great!" and then you say "Are you still doing the whole acting thing?" and I say "Of course, I mean, what else would I be doing?" and you answer "Oh, well, are you still bartending?" or "Are you getting paid for it?" or the absolute worst, "Did you find a husband who can support you while you do this?" I think you are being rude, and I automatically become defensive.

Incredibly talented, beautiful, successful people work in the service industry. I have such respect for professional bartenders and waiters.  They have the patience that I cannot possibly match.  They should be proud that they are good enough at what they do to go into a shift with a smile, not get flustered by the events of the evening, serve with pride, and then do it all over again.

Incredibly talented, beautiful, successful people work as actors (or in other fields), and fill in the gaps to live a more fulfilling life by working a few shifts.  This does not mean that they are not successful. It means that they are making an honest living working hard to live in this impossible city.  Do not think less of them.  Do not judge them poorly.  Instead, praise their work ethic.  Go to one of their shows.  Speak about them with respect.  Instead of phrasing it "Well, he's out there doing his thing, but he is still waiting tables," why not say "He just did a stand-up set at the Comedy Cellar and is beginning rehearsals for 'Winter's Tale."

A good rule of thumb, speak about your friends and family in a way that they would represent themselves.

Let us not pity the actor, the teacher with the summer job, or the political activist.  They want to make this world a more fantastic place by bringing beauty, human rights, and passion to everyday life.  Sometimes, they just want a little more money to pay the bills.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


There is a fire.
And like
All fire
It is.
So you fuel it.
And it is hot
And big for my eyes.
And troubling. And beautiful.
It is because I contained it.
Locked it down and drained it.
So it was soft, yellow, and warm.
It now threatens, but I am yet to be burned.
And I hate the cliche of fire.
The first known metaphor, the beginning invention.
But yes, I think of sun and light and reflection
Of us, you, me.
There was no spark.
No lightning strike.
A cigar left in a wet pile of leaves.
A joint between the covers.
Red ash under the rug.
Grown, to a comfortable level
And now it keeps me up at night
Worried the house may burn down.
Funny that it tickles.
Funny that it is distant.
But any way we decide, there will need
To be fire.
Without it
The shivers, trembling, palpitating 
No longer have the cover of softness or harshness.
It will just be dry, and if not cold,
It will just be.
And being has never been enough.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Last Adventure

Beautiful, Beautiful Lady.
A Lady in the truest sense.
An accent, a dignity, a softness.
Silver white shoulder length hair.

Sinewy muscles hold on during a bumpy ride.
The youth of the boat is distressed.
She is calm, serene, ready.
Barely speaking
Everything through the eyes.
The eyes that bring a sudden staggering blue.
I am stopped in my figurative tracks.

That bright icy blue, long wet dark lashes
Then a child-like smile as she slips on her equipment.

Her boastful daughter: "She's had over 60 dives."

Standing tall under tanks and skins,
effortless in the silliest of functional footwear:

The bobbing seasick boat has a reason,
a reminder of why we came here

Her eyes, her light, her quick fleeting laugh.

We need to leave early.

The talkative daughter: "She had to abort her dive."

I glance over.  Double take.

A crumpled elderly woman sits sideways.
Purple against gray stuck in two lumps of red clay.
Closed eyes
Closed smile for my benefit
Calming nose breath

She is held over chopped water
A clumsy scurry to the harbor

I glace over, again again again.

The nonplussed daughter: "Thank you for  your understanding."
"We just want her to be okay."
Of course of course of course.

The slits open,  a cloudy gray
not  the bluest sky of eye.
The rejection of the sea
The salt and pressure
The fear
The heartbreak.

A heartbreak.
A lady who becomes an old woman.
The last adventure.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Death of Lightning Liz

Some workaholics have been know to say "I would rather die than retire."

I am not one of those people.  I love vacation.  I love naps and food and playtime.  I have designed my career around a life of play.  Forever a child.

Reaching for a youthful adulthood.

(We've heard this before, so I will continue forward.)

I have decided to kill Lightning Liz.

For those of you who do not know, Lightning Liz was my make believe alter ego. She was born in high school.  I believe she developed during a rousing game of Egyptian Ratscrew.

She started hosting variety shows at Silver Bay.  While lifeguarding, she would either will or block rainstorms, depending on the sleepiness and mood of her other, Regular Liz. In college, she had a catch phrase: "Shazam!"

"With great power comes great responsibility."

Okay, so it's not like I have carried her around with me like a twin.  I have faults, but I do not actually have multiple personalities.  Lightning Liz is fun.  Speedy.  A handy character that I can pull out during card games, stage shows, or tense situations in order to show whose boss.

Why kill her?

It has come to my attention that I cannot tell the future.  Shocking.

Before you get judgemental, consider yourself. It is a rare thing not to think you are special.  Everyone does, in some way.

When I got hit by a car in high school, I thought back to the moment I almost turned the other  way and said "I knew I should have gone down Sixth St."

My mother would call. "I was just thinking of calling you!"

When I dodged a knife wielding man on the street: "Something told me to watch him closely..."

Really, these events were not foretold.  I was just observing.

I often turned a different way when driving home in high school. Of course it crossed my mind to make that turn. It often did without consequence.  My mother and I go weeks without calling, and then we start to realize that it has been too long.   That guy on the street looked shady, so I reacted with a sense of obligation to stay alive.  This is not a superpower.  This is simply looking at things in hindsight and choosing to believe that I was something more than human.

Let's think: If I actually could tell the future, I would have had a thousand heart attacks on the subway. My panic attacks would come true.

I would have never have been her friend. I would have scheduled the picnic on a sunny day.

I  am terrible at fortune telling!!!  I am a fraud!  Can you imagine how different my life would have been if I could actually read minds and foresee future events?  I would already have my Tony Award.

This may seem simple.  It is simple.

But this is freeing.  This knowledge that I do not know what will happen has actually given me strength.  Not being an expert in the field has given me power.

I will no longer try with all of my might to decide which way to turn so that an air conditioner does not fall on my head.  I will not spend a few panic minutes memorizing the right thing to say to the  casting director.  I will not pretend to be a medical expert when I smell toast and decide it's a stroke.

I am not Lightning Liz. I cannot make it storm.

She is dead.  And with it, I can tackle life with a free fall.  Not knowing what each day holds is a freedom.  It's a gift.  It could be the best day of your life, or it could leave you shaken til you are inside out.

Time is my rock star.

I will jump everyday with the knowledge I actually have, and life will continue on.  Or not.

Who knows?  Not me or Lightning Liz.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Thousand Deaths

It is time to reflect.
I am feeling sort-of positive.  And somewhat negative...but only about two particular things:


The positive stuff is great....which is what makes it positive in the first place.  I just got married.  Everything went very well after stressing over the what ifs.  I am attempting to learn a lesson from that.  A overwhelming downfall of mine, a trait that leads to panic attacks, is worry.  I worry about everything.  I am nervous almost constantly.  My stomach is full of butterflies and my heart races a few times a day. Some days are worse.  There are triggers:

not sleeping.
too much caffeine.
lack of money.
lack of time.
too much time.
lack of excersize.
driving in intense traffic.
being on a crowded subway.
being too hungry or thirsty.

So, in a nutshell, if I get a good night sleep and have only a cup and a half of coffee and the mail brings a handy surprise residual check and I have some work to do, but not too much work, and I have enough time to go on a long walk with the dogs after I visit the gym, and I was healthy the night before so I am feeling hydrated and I have fruit and veggies in the fridge that I can nibble on all day guilt-free, and though the work I am doing involves memorizing lines for an awesome job, I do not have to get on the subway that day and my car is parked in a reliable spot....

then I can almost be certain that I will not have a panic attack.

Can you see where I am going with this?

"A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero only one." -Shakespeare

What was the point in worrying about my wedding for the past hundred days?  It was perfect.  It was better than I had hoped.  I am now happily married, and I feel more solid in my friendships and family.  The check did not bounce and the weather held. 

I am pretty sure I did not get more than 5 hours of sleep each night all summer.

If I just let things happen a little....
Fighting for control is futile when it comes to things like storm clouds.
Worry worry worry.

I could have just been excited for my wedding. 
I WAS excited for my wedding, but I could have been sleeping at night and bright during the day.  I did not need to talk myself into thinking I was seeing double while I imagined smelling burnt toast. I do not need this. That.

I will die a death.  One big old day will end it all.  Time will speed by and stuff will happen to me. It'll be bad.  It will be good.  I cannot keep dying all these little deaths everyday because things are out of my control.

What I can do is try my best to learn the lessons life hands me, and move forward towards a future a little less fearful.

Fearlessly?  That's doubtful. 
But possibly obtainable.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Another Puff Piece

I am a optimistic pessimist, an angry happy person, a negative positive.

I have been neglecting this blog for a couple of reasons, the biggest one being that I feel the urge to write about negative experiences and angry feelings. 

I watch the news on a regular basis, and it is no secret that the news is primarily bad.  Good news just isn't as important.  It is a sad truth that I think we struggle with as a whole.  Good news is mostly considered a "puff piece." 

Happy people are thought of as being fluffy and light.  Balloons and parties come to mind.  And sunshine and laughter.  Nothing too serious. 

Hard news is serious.  Hard people are serious. People who do not smile and seldom laugh are worth hearing.  They are the subjects of the news in social circles.  The smilers, on the other hand, are the puff pieces, the gossip. 

Maybe this is the source of the urge.

I am fighting the feeling that only my negative experiences are blog worthy.

I have spoken many times about a struggle of mine.  I have problems being taken seriously and being respected.  I find it frustrating, and I am trying to reclaim it; I am trying to turn the negative into a positive by capitalizing on this public image.  This is difficult. 

The child in me wishes we only reported the positive stuff....maybe the bad stuff would just go away....hiding from a monster by closing my eyes. 

And all of my terrible experiences with people, money, politics....they want to rush out of me.  This overwhelming urge to share these...well, complaints, to get everything off my chest...

It makes me incredibly human, you know?  To want to find others who have suffered with experience, big and small.  Deny it and lie: we all want to belong.

But maybe I can keep pointing out the things I like: the beauty of a day like today, the sweetness of my canine friends, the kindness and intelligence of my fiance. 

There is so much about this world that needs to be taken seriously. There is so much about me that needs to be taken seriously. There is so much about love and happiness and light and good health that we should think about....and therefore, take seriously.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

You can't trust a girl who smiles

I grew up with the idea that there is good in everyone.  It may be hard to find, but if you search down deep enough, you'll find the good. 

I have wanted to believe this my whole life.  I have tried to dredge up the good.  To drill down deep through the shallow surface, the mud, the clay, the core.  To point out when the bad guy showed his good side.  To believe that the broken part in the bully was not put there at birth.  They were not born damaged.  They were born sweet and loving and full of light.  Something happened.  Something changed.  A slip and fall and punch in the face and the good hid inside where no one could find it.  But me.  I could find it, if I tried.

I don't know if I can believe this anymore.  It hurts the innocent part of me: the part that wants to breath clean air.

I  have had many jobs.  Most of my jobs have been either customer service or team related.  When I am on stage, I am working as a team.  Fortunately, I like actors.  Any good actor is honest before anything else.  I can see the goodness as soon as they walk under the lights.  We may fight.  We may have differences.  But I know who you are, co-worker, and chances are, I like you a lot.

This is not about you. This is about the side work, the day job, the necessary evil.
The customer.

I have done sales.  Tending bar is sales, being a toy demonstrator is sales, being a promotional model is sales....I could go on and on with examples of sales jobs and my past jobs.....

People demand special treatment.  They aren't special.  Some of them have money....a lot of money.  Some of them are poor.  They feel entitled, the rich and the poor alike.  They ask if I can lower they price or if they can get the second one free.  They are insulted.  They say loudly that "she is ripping me off" and "don't talk to her, what's wrong with you?"

I am just standing there.  Alone.  I am behind a bar.  I am demonstrating a magic toy.  I am giving away a sample.  I am just doing my job.  I am a good person who is trying  to make a buck and do right by my boss.  I am not pushy.  I don't up sell or down sell.  I let things sell themselves. I am smiling and you are mean.

Someone must have hurt you.  They have made you feel like you can't trust a girl who smiles. 

I have been hurt too.  I don't need you to know about that.  There is sludge below the surface and broken parts.  It's none of your business.  My business is to smile and do a good job.  It's not the hardest thing in the world.

What is hard is being treated like I am less than you.  My fellow bartenders are smart, beautiful, creative, people who I am proud to know.  They have more compassion and drive than the average person.  They are brave.  I don't necessarily know my other other day jobs have been fleeting or solo.  Let's assume those people are great.

Lets assume it is not kind to make fun of someone's job.
It's not nice to talk about us like we can't hear you.
You are still a bully, after all of these years.

Disclaimer: Nothing terrible has happened.  Today has been a great day.....other than losing my voice.  I have simply wanted to address this human unkindness for a while, and being non-verbal today has freed up some time. 

Just be nice.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Turning Off the Cold

I love living in New York City when it first snows.  Last night I walked.  The neighborhood was closer to quiet.  I realized how many street lights there are on my block.  They reflected tiny little specks of snow.  It looked like someone had thrown white glitter everywhere.  I forgot about the cold and made a wish that the snow could stay this pure for just a little while longer.

Everything is fleeting.

I am tired of being a child.  I am coming to terms with the fact that it's not about being child-like, it's about being childish.  I will never lose my appreciation for snow and sparkles; I like that about myself.

I have a ring on my finger.  It's beautiful.  If I shaved it down I could put white glitter everywhere.

I love what it represents.  This makes me feel something greater than happiness.  I am lucky.

It's a story being told about somebody else.  I can't grip it's reality.  I am pretending to be an adult and plan a wedding.  I mean, I am doing this, but I don't know how to do anything. It's highlighting how many things I do not know how to do.

I am not stressing about this wedding or anything.  I plan on doing things simply, and I am not someone who worries about the details.  That isn't what this is about.  Don't worry friends, I will make this process fun.  One of my strengths is the ability to turn anything into a game.

I am coming to terms with the fact that many people do not take me seriously.  I have fought with this my whole life.  Maybe I am too sensitive about it, but only because I know it's true.  Thankfully,  my husband to be takes me seriously.  He knows I am smart and encourages me to follow through on all of my crazy schemes.  He thinks someday I will be who I want to be, and he likes me the way I am now. 

Myself? I am not so sure.

All of this: playing pretend within reality, turning most things into a game, not being taken seriously....

I am going to attempt something new.  I am so tired of fighting.  Fighting is childish.

Maybe I can actually become more of an adult if I can recognize that there is strength in my shortcomings. Maybe I can think of my clumsiness as comedy, my game playing as charm, my ability to pretend as practice. 

I could use some practice.

And possibly, if I turn that switch in my own head and look at myself differently instead of trying to change who I am, possibly I can be taken seriously.  Because not every adult can turn off the cold and see the sparkles in the snow.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Explaining the Cleanse

I have no will power.  This has always been an issue for me.

I am currently putting myself through a raw food cleanse.  People keep saying "good for you."  Not good for me.  All I want is pizza, and no one who complains this much should be congratulated.

I am doing this because I want to go to Mexico without guilt and with confidence.

Part of me thought that I would get some clarity from eating healthier.  I do have clearer senses.  My sense of smell is much stronger.  The discarded Christmas trees on the curb are perfectly overwhelming. 

But I feel the same amount of crazy.

An ex-boyfriend of mine told me that I should go on anti-depressants.  I laughed.  I am an optimistic, positive, energized person.  I have a love of life and all things living.  One of my favorite things is to go into the world and look at the beauty.  It's free for the taking.

Also, this was coming from an overly self-medicated person who didn't witness daylight on the weekends.  I was not going to hear about my mental health from this particular dime store psychologist. 

Then I read this book.  Okay, full honestly: I read part of this book.  The book was given to me by my current boyfriend and recommended by his lovely ex-girlfriend (I actually mean that truthfully.  She is lovely and I adore her.)  It was supposed to help me with my anxiety issues.

The book did help.  It made me realize that not everyone worries this much or carries around guilt like it's going to redeem any wrongdoing.  It also made me realize that not everyone automatically assumes that they have made an ass of themselves when meeting someone new or talking to a group of people. 

I do that.  I am confessing something here.  I feel ashamed to admit it, like maybe you won't like me anymore. But it is true.  If we are friends, or even if we have just met a few times, I have felt insecure either with you or after being with you.

It haunts me.  I coach myself. 

-I try to think of things another way: "remember when you said that silly thing and everyone  laughed?" 

-And then the rebuttal: "but then you cut off your friend mid-sentence because you were too busy complaining about not being able to eat a whole pizza." 

Its a cycle. 

-Chin-up, Lightning! Ten good things are better than one bad!

-Stop calling yourself "Lightning."  You are the only one who appreciates it.

It's ridiculous.

The book helped.  I thought this was normal.  And I had to give the ex credit.  This cycle of doubt makes me sad. A lot.

Well, I am not on any anti-depressants, and I do feel pretty darn good most of the time.  I have problems feeling overwhelmed.  I have problems with anxiety. I will always have problems with willpower.

I have problems.

My head is full of positive thoughts.  It's pouring over with possibility.  I feel safe right now. The day was beautiful.  I ran through somehow wood-smoked air.  It smelled so good, and I am happy. Life feels good on me.

But I will publish this and the relief of sharing a bit of myself will turn into remorse. I will automatically feel absurdly judged and a little too human. 

Then I will go to Mexico in a week, cleansed physically, so I can feel positive about myself (in that regard.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The social experiment of the half-eaten bagel

The other day I was tending bar.  I had switched shifts with a beautiful, smart, funny, friend of mine, so I was working her usual shift during the day.  Certain things, well...a lot of things bother me about people when I bartend.  This is why I tend to limit my bartending to one shift a week, give or take.  I am poor and less grumpy because of it.

Still, I would like to talk about something that bothers me every single time I work during the day.
(This post has a positive happy thoughtful ending, so please continue reading.)
When you work a daytime shift at a bar, you have tasks that are unlike the nighttime tasks.  For instance, you may have to work on changing the beer menus or cut fruit.  These things do not bother me; actually, I find them to be a sort-of fun time taker.

This is what drives me absolutely crazy: if I am doing one of these little chores and the bar is empty, a customer will come into the bar and sit directly in front of my task even though every single stinking seat is open but the one directly in front of my work. See, right there, right where they decide to sit, is a chalk board that takes up double the width of the bar preventing comfortable seating, or it's a cutting board that is full of lemons, limes, juices, and knives, and thus, leaves no room for a customer's drink.  I do not know why this happens.  It makes me want to eat my own arm and swallow my fist.  It makes me freaking insane, and it happens every single time.

The other day that I was working happened to be bagel day. We give away free bagels, and isn't that nice? Well, I decided to conduct an experiment of sorts.

Is it me that draws them to the unavailable area?  Or is it the unavailable area itself?:

My boss came in and ate half a bagel.  He left the other half on the bar.  I knew he was done with it, but I decided not to throw it away.  Understand, I had completed all of my side work, and this was something different.  The half-eaten bagel did not require my presence.  A half-eaten bagel can be anyone's.  It is simply an object on the bar that is clearly not the property of any new customer who has just entered.

I watched as twenty, (20!) people walked in through out the afternoon to a relatively empty bar and sit directly in front of the bagel.  In the early hours, daytime shifts are usually a one or two beer stay for most customers.  In the course of 2 hours, twenty people can easily come in, drink, socialize, leave and only see about 2 other people at the the bar is pretty empty even though twenty people have come and gone.

I would move the bagel to a different seat when someone new entered the room.  They would survey the bar and choose the seat with the half-eaten bagel in front.  Then, I moved it to a random location.  The next person comes in, says hello, and again, sits at the bagel.  A HALF EATEN BAGEL?  Don't you feel a little insane just knowing this happens?


So this is the kind of thing that bothers me.  I get angry just thinking about it.  I also get angry walking behind people who weave back and forth, people who ask me personal questions that do not even know my name, and people who listen to their headphones at full volume on the subway.  This is only naming a few things that people do day to day that make me sign audibly and role my eyes.  Usually I say "jesus" or "are you kidding me?" under my breath.  It's all very passive aggressive-like.

Then something tragic happens.  People die.  Children are shot.  The Earth speeds-up, slows-down, screeches to a halt, yet continues to rotate.  Christmas is cancelled. Peace has never been so far out of reach, and war is birthed out of our anger and sadness.  We are fighting for new laws, fighting for answers, fighting for sleep at night.

Someone comes up with a nice idea: twenty-six acts of kindness for the twenty-six killed.

I want to be a part of that. I want to help the healing and bring back the holiday spirit of giving and peace. I want to fuck this Apocalypse til she knows the meaning of the word "love."

Yesterday I stood up and gave my seat on the subway to an old woman.  I started to congratulate myself and check a random act off my list. But than I realized that this is not a random act. This is a regular act. This is how we all should live.  Giving your seat to someone on the subway should not be a kind act, it should be a regular act.

Than I picked up a wallet for someone who had dropped it.  Again, this is not a kind act.  This is an everyday act.  

I have no money to give.  I have little time to spare.  I can do these simple things for people, but these are things that are already done.  Anyone should be so inclined to help someone in need in little ways.  There are not twenty-six times to do this.  This should happen every single day.  It must.

So I have decided to become more understanding.  I will try to end the huffing and puffing and blow your house down.  I will realize that maybe the person swerving in front of me is reading a text that is immediately taking her focus away from the world around her.  Maybe the person asking personal questions finds me interesting and is looking for a way to form an actual conversation where names are exchanged. Maybe the person listening to their headphones at full volume has panic issues, like I have.  Maybe my need to read a book does not work for them.  Maybe they need to plug in and close their eyes. Maybe I have been so misunderstanding.

And at times, misunderstood myself.

Right now, this change in thinking is what I can offer.  

I am still looking for an answers.

Like: why are people drawn to a half-eaten bagel?