Friday, November 21, 2008

Lights, Camera, Steak

As you may have heard, we've decided to make a movie out of "If You See Something Say Something."

It's being directed by Peabody Award-winning cameraman Steve Anderson, who has shot seven PBS documentaries, written and directed the feature film "The Big Empty," and was recently a hit of the film festival circuit with his documentary about the most fascinating word in the English language, "Fuck." He's also been charged by lions on the Serengeti Plain, caught fire in the Malibu fires, trained as a Hollywood stunt driver, and shot hoops with Magic Johnson.

And here he is, digging through the Public Theater's dumpster, hoping to find a bit of magic in the refuse.

This was from a scene we filmed in the adjacent alley, though most of the film will be of the performance itself, shot over a total of six nights.

Mike and I wield such tight creative control over our projects that it's been a bit scary to let someone else in, but I have to say that these guys made it easy. It was a lean crew--Steve, Andre and Sandra--and each person was as positive as they were professional, which made each performance a joy to perform.

Once we'd wrapped (see how easily I use the lingo? I also learned that the final shot set-up of the day is called the "martini shot." I'm going to use that in other areas of my life! I'm envisioning martini paragraphs in writing, martini rooms in cleaning . . . this could be a very good thing) we decided to celebrate by heading over to the finest steak house New York has to offer: Peter Luger's.

When we got home, our dog could taste the steak still coming through our pores.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Partnership, in Print

There was a piece written about our collaboration a while ago (six months? a year? I'm terrible with time) that I ran across again this morning because the writer of that piece has written a new article about two other creative couples.

The writer is also a director who lives in our neighborhood with his wife, who is also a theater artist. I like running into them at shows, but it's even better when we bump into each other on the street. (Not literally.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes, We Did

Some scenes from last night's gathering.

Tensions were high and people were afraid to let their guard down at first.

Everyone was checking their trusted websites for news, supplementing old media with new.

But after we won Ohio, people started to relax a bit.

(The celebratory round of vodka didn't hurt either.)

Baci wore his "time for change" sweater, complete with a button that looks like a little clock, made for him by the Yarn Lady.

And baby Callaghan was passed around the room, spreading a sense of hopefulness to everyone who held him.

When the election officially broke for Obama, the room went crazy with delight, and the sweetest part was seeing everyone on the phones with their family, checking in to say hello and omigoodness, can you believe it happened?

We all thought McCain's concession speech was very gracious.

And we loved Obama's speech.

Especially the part about the puppy.

Big love to our friends and neighbors who made a wonderful night even better by sharing it with us.

God bless America.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Guest Economist

About a week and half ago, my mother sent me her thoughts on the current economic crisis, and I asked her if I could post it here. She agreed. The first line of it read, "How my parents will save the world's economic problems," and it seemed to me a perfect title. Enjoy.

(Pictured above are my grandmother and grandfather, or Babcia and Dziadek, as we called them. On Dziadek's lap is me on the left, and my cousin Amanda on the right. The picture was taken at their home in San Antonio.)


How My Parents Will Save the World's Economic Problems

Just read the New Yorker article about the 30-year-old who brought down the French trading house, Société Générale. Then I heard the author of The Black Swan talking about the impending world economic collapse. While I was reading the New Yorker article, I was struck by the understanding that the people in charge had no idea what was going on.

So let me tell you about my parents. Simple peasants from the Polish Ukraine who survived Hitler’s “work study” program during the Second World War, which was a better option than being killed by the Ukrainians or going to Siberia with the Russians. They arrived in Texas with three children and a bag of dried bread crusts and a feather bed, which my mother had gotten for her dowry. We were supposed to go to Kansas, but when we arrived in New Orleans in December 1949, we were reassigned to Texas. Others took our place in Kansas. On the train trip to San Antonio, by mother kept remembering all the stories she had read about Indians and the uncivilized conditions in the West—which included Texas in European mythology.

The uncivilized conditions proved to be true, but not because of Indians.

So they arrived, they raised their children, and we thrived. We are all solvent, self-sufficient American taxpayers. Quite a feat when you start out making $.25 per hour, work 16-hour days and are paid for 8. My father left that job to work at a non-union foundry at $1 per hour. To support us he also moonlighted cleaning the parochial school my siblings and I attended for 3 years.

So what did I learn from these people about economics? If you don’t understand it, don’t do it. It’s a simple concept, but it would have kept us out of a world of trouble. They understood interest—we saved and would go downtown to put money in the bank weekly. To celebrate the deposit we would go to Joske’s and buy cheese, salami and hard rolls, which we would eat on the way home. At first we ate on the bus, then we continued the tradition in our first car—a ‘49 Ford.

After I got out of college and married, my parents were there to advance a loan for my first car—and they extended this policy to my sister and later to my children. Their rates were great, and our rates were better than the banks were offering. Everyone was happy. They died rich and happy and surrounded by family.

So now the world is in a world of trouble. Who would have thought that making bets on derivatives wouldn’t turn out well for all of us? My mom and dad would have said, What do you mean you don’t know whom you’re lending money to? Why can’t you explain it to me so I understand? Are these good people who have these loans on those houses and when can you show me?

It seems like a simple life, but we sure would be a lot more secure if we would have listened to them.

--Virginia Bowen, who runs a small business, Seattle Yarn, and who can be found on the web offering yarn and advice in her Ask The Yarn Lady column. She also has a blog. And she is a mighty fine mama and babcia in her own right.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Souls Day

The poet Czeslaw Milosz has always been special to me.

When M and I were still just friends--but friends who sought each other out each day to unload the contents of our heads before the next day came to erase them--he gave me a gorgeous copy of the collected poems of Czeslaw Milosz. That was my first introduction.

Later, I would return to that thick volume the way others might turn to their bibles, always somehow finding the string of words I needed to hear at that particular moment.

Some years ago, I was up late, troubled by my lack of progress with the book I was working on, a book about my grandmother, and feeling very anguished about my calling. I turned to Milosz's book again and opened up to his poem, "On Angels." It ends with these three lines:

day draws near
another one
do what you can

Those words helped cut through my anguish and remind me of the simplicity (not to be confused with easiness) of my task. I wrote them down on a sticky, fixed it to the wall above my desk, and went to sleep.

In the morning I opened my laptop to read the news and was immediately presented with an article telling me that Milosz had died the night before. I had not known he'd been ill and I had not gone looking for news of him. I copy-and-pasted the following lines from the article in an email to Michael:

Milosz died at his home in Krakow surrounded by his family, the assistant, Agnieszka Kosinska, told The Associated Press by telephone. The exact cause of death was not immediately known.

"It's death, simply death. It was his time -- he was 93," Kosinska said.

The uncanny timing leant those words even more power for me, reminding me that each day is, indeed, a gift.

Today is All Souls' Day, a big deal in Poland where both Milosz and my grandmother were from. It's a beautiful holiday meant to help remember the dead as families visit the graves of their relatives and leave behind lit candles to help the souls navigate their way home.

I was lucky enough to experience it myself when I was in Warsaw in 1997, and lucky to have Michael visiting me at the time. We rode a city bus out to a large graveyard and wandered through the hushed and holy place, holding hands, and now and then bending down to place the few candles we'd purchased on graves that seemed emptier than the others--though on All Souls Day, no grave went without at least a dozen candles.

I remember I said something to Michael about how quiet it was, and he pointed out to me the sound of breaking glass. I don't know how I'd missed it. The candles were made to burn a long time, many having been placed the day before, on All Saints Day, and as the built up heat became too much for the thin glass enclosure to take, the glass would sometimes burst. But such a delicate bursting. Like it belonged to a piano key far, far to the right, too far to reach with human hands.

This morning I woke up early, woken by another dream about my grandmother, who passed this July. In the dream I was with my mother, and I was marveling with her about the moment of letting go, what that must be like, to really and truly be done. My mother wrapped her arm around my shoulder and asked a nurse-like figure if we could see the body, because she thought it would be helpful for me to see. The nurse was apprehensive, but she eventually led us through to a darkened room, and there on the table was a body, but it wasn't my grandmother, it was me.

I understood then that the body was just a shell, and that my grandmother's soul had moved on, and there was nothing here for me to see.

Now I'm wide awake, unable to return to sleep, missing my grandmother, appreciating the loyalty of my small black dog who faithfully followed at my grandmother's heels when she was alive and now has followed me from the warm bed where Michael still snores, and is curled on my lap, sleeping, not minding the few drops of wet I'm contributing to his soft black fur.

Mr. Milosz has been good enough to provide me with a new poem this morning, and on this All Souls Day, I share it with you as well.



Arthritically bent, in black, spindle-legged,
They move, leaning on canes, to the altar where the Pantocrator
In a dawn of gilded rays lifts his two fingers.
The mighty, radiant face of the All-Potent
In whom everything was created, whatever is on the earth and in
To whom are submitted the atom and the scale of galaxies,
Rises over the heads of His servants, covered with their shawls
While into their shriveled mouths they receive His flesh.

A mirror, mascara, powder, and cones of carmine
Lured every one of them and they used to dress up
As themselves, adding a brighter glow to their eyes,
A rounder arch to their brows, a denser red to their lips.
They opened themselves, amorous, in the riverside woods,
Carried inside the magnificence of the beloved,
Our mothers whom we have never repaid,
Busy, as we were, with sailing, crossing continents.
And guilty, seeking their forgiveness.

He who has been suffering for ages rescues
Ephemeral moths, tired-winged butterflies in the cold,
Genetrixes with the closed scars of their wombs,
And carries them up to His human Theotokos,
So that the ridicule and pain change into majesty
And thus it is fulfilled, late, without charms and colors,
Our imperfect, earthly love.

--Czeslaw Milosz