Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Enigmatic Post

This old picture holds a clue as to what I may be doing this February. Situation still developing, but if all works out, it will be a boon for TRAVELMONKEYS readers. That's all I can say now. Back to work. Shhhh.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Late Night Eats in Seattle

I was going through my photos from Seattle and was impressed by how many times we ended up eating at Dick's--same as when we lived there. The food stands up even when you're sober, but it tastes best when you've done a show, then headed immediately to a bar, then been ushered out because it's closing time, which means you're starving and have about fifteen minutes before Dick's closes too.

I like the saucy Deluxe, a side of soft brown fries, and a shake. But sometimes a scoop of chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce will do the trick too.

We don't really have a comparable late-night haunt in New York. (Instead we end up making pasta, or my favorite: ramen with mushrooms and avocado and sesame seeds.)

But in Seattle, all roads lead to Dick's, so you're likely to run into old friends there. After my brother's wedding, we even ran into him and his lovely bride Ray there. (See proof below.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Taxi and the Tortoise

I love this week's New Yorker cover. Especially because it speaks directly to one of the most central arguments in my household, an argument that rears its head almost daily when we're home: taxi or subway?

Though neither of us are so rigid that we can't see the value in both forms of transportation, we each tend to cling to our positions in a way that extends beyond rational decision-making. To wit: I will always prefer the subway and he will always prefer the taxi.

He says the taxi is faster, and sometimes that is true. But then there are those times when you get caught in traffic and there is nothing you can do but sit there like a chump while the meter rises and rises. I'd rather allow an extra 15 minutes and bring a book. Or the latest New Yorker. I can't read while in the back of a car, but I can read while on the subway.

He says he likes being above ground, so that if you're running late (maybe because you got caught in traffic), you can use your cell phone to let the person you're meeting know that you'll be late. But I love the subway precisely because I can't use my cell phone. It's one little window of calm in my otherwise always-connected day. I can't update my blog, I can't talk on the phone, but I can read or people watch or think. And since there's absolutely nothing I can do to affect my course (I can't tell the conductor to go left here or take the FDR or watch out for that other car) I am able to actually relax.

Now sometimes the subway will screw you. Trains get re-routed or just plain fail to show up, construction work appears out of nowhere, mentally ill people lose control of their bowels. It happens.

But most of the time, it gets me exactly where I need to go, and in a reliable amount of time. And it only costs $2. Now that the Air Train is running, it costs just $5 more to go all the way to JFK. With transfers, that trip takes one hour from my apartment in Brooklyn. If I were taking a cab, it would cost $45 + tip and I'd also have to allow an hour, because while you can get there in just half an hour, you can never be sure how the traffic will be.

It's not just about speed or cost, though. There's also the very real sense of community I feel each and every time I take the subway. On any given day you'll see Hasids sitting next to strippers next to investment bankers next to single mothers next to vegetable vendors. And when that train gets re-routed or doesn't appear, or when that inconsiderate asshole plays his stupid music over his cell phone, we all experience it together. I also see people give up their seats to the elderly and pregnant, or move around to help a family sit together, or help a mother carry her stroller up or down the stairs.

It feels so cliched to write about, so sentimental, but I can't help it: New York City is one of the most diverse places on earth, and it's the subway that helps unite us into one people. I love having my wheels when I'm on the west coast, but by the end of my stay there I often feel a sense of isolation from the city itself. Not from all the individuals I've connected with, but from the city as a city, as a mass, as a community.

In the end, I have to admit that my fondness for this cover might also have something to do with knowing the outcome of the mythological race. I like to believe that if Aesop were a New Yorker today, he would be writing his fables while sitting beside me on the F train.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fantastic Review from the Seattle Weekly!

Alternately side-splitting and stomach-curdling, writer/actress Suzanne Morrison’s autobiographical monologue is savagely funny. Narrating her decision to quit her job, drain her bank account, and put her relationship on hold while she trains as a yoga instructor in Bali, Yoga Bitch is the story of a career move which, it turns out, makes pursuing ambitions of solo theater look sane and pragmatic by comparison. Morrison introduces a cast of lunatic characters and leads them through a host of eccentric practices, from the exorcism of kitchen appliances to “urine therapy,” with candor, humor, and a flair for a punchline. Through sheer force of talent and personality, she is able to shock and horrify patrons without sacrificing their implicit faith in the complete and total logic of each decision that she makes. Ambitious, ballsy, and hilarious, Yoga Bitch is surely the best one-woman show I’ve seen all year. (21+ only.) VIRGINIA ZECH
8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Ends Oct. 11.


Manhattan Picnic

We had a production meeting at the Public yesterday for our upcoming run. Afterward, I'd planned on going home to make this week's World's Healthiest Foods recipe, but by the time we'd finished we realized we were starving and needed to eat immediately.

That's when we saw this food cart on the corner of Lafayette and Houston, and decided to get the old standby, grilled chicken over rice. If ever there was a combination for comfort, it's got to be these two ingredients. Mike was game so long as there was somewhere to sit--and thanks to the construction happening on that corner, there was.

After we'd started eating it occurred to me what an unlikely picnic spot this was. If we were anywhere else on the planet I'd find it Travelmonkeys worthy, so I went ahead and captured the moment. Note the ENORMOUS Calvin Klein brassiere advertisement in the background. If that isn't appropriate for a meal of chicken cutlets, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mrs. Tom Cruise

As a kind of follow-up to my post about being "the wife," I submit this article from The Brandon Sun about Katie Holmes's Broadway debut. The headline reads "Tom Cruise Praises Katie Holmes' Broadway Performance." Which is, like, duh. He's married to her. How did that make the headline?

And then I love this mini-review embedded within the piece:

If Holmes felt nervous and jittery, she didn't show it. She delivered her lines with confidence and projected her girlish voice so it could be heard loud and clear. She danced around on stage with gusto. She looked lovely in two dresses that highlighted her trim yet shapely figure. She wore a brown shoulder-length hairpiece to hide her trendy pixie cut. And she received a standing ovation afterward. It's safe to say that no one probably clapped harder than Cruise.

It's positively thick with condescension. This is what good actresses are supposed to do, I suppose: look pretty and be able to project. Even if you're not a fan of Holmes, she had a big career before Mr. Cruise came along and yet this article treats her like she's some exquisite plaything of his who's never done anything on her own. (Also: why the "probably" after the writer has already declared it "safe to say"? Just say it! Be bold!)

In my work with my husband I'm usually quite invisible in the reviews, which is understandable given that we're promoting a singular voice. I'm not sure how anyone would be able to discern where my contribution begins and ends; I certainly can't. But it's notable that of the reviews in which I've been singled out, in the very best it was from someone who mistook me for a (French) man. In the very worst, I was simply called "Mrs. Mike Daisey."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Three Sisters

This, right here, is what I miss more than anything else about Seattle. Sure, the ferries are nice. So are the peekaboo mountains and the crashing waves of Puget Sound. The long off-leash walks with my dog in Lincoln Park. The creamy chowder (Manhattan-style is bullshit). The used book stores. The coffee. (I don't even bother ordering lattes outside of Seattle. No foam can compare to Vivace's. None.)

But what I miss most is having my sisters nearby, all of whom live in Seattle.

I was born without sisters and I envied my cousins, a family of four girls, all of them impressively teenaged and willowy and everything I was sure I would never be.

I had two older brothers, and it should be noted that for brothers they were pretty wonderful. They even found ways to incorporate me into their games. I remember a complex Lego war that lasted between them for months, and I wanted to be included even though I had no interest in simulating battle. They helped me build a baby out of Lego pieces and then made me different outfits for my baby so I could play beside them.

But I still wanted a sister. When my mom met my step-dad and became pregnant, I prayed every night that it would be a girl. I have never worked as hard for anything as I did for that sister. I had nightmares that it would come out a boy, and in these nightmare he was around three, and he wore saltwater sandals, and even though he was younger than me he would find ways to torment me in order to win points with his older brothers, who would naturally be more admirable to him than I ever could be because they were boys.

But God was merciful and I was granted baby Ruth.

Still, I never had an older sister. Sometimes my cousin Andrea would come over and I would follow her around worshipfully, but she had her own life to live.

But many years later I met the man who would become my husband, and he had a sister, and as soon as I met her I claimed her as my own. Mary's only one year older than me, and I manage to be almost as bossy and controlling of her as I am of Ruth, but somehow she puts up with it and lets me call her my big sister. She's also the only item of our pre-nup: No matter what happens between Michael and me, I get to keep Mary.

(That's us, vacationing in Key West together in 2002. Goodness, we're pasty.)

So I had a little sister and a big sister, but still, I wanted more. I wanted a twin. And then I met Suzanne after we were both cast in a play at the University of Washington. She played my overpowering mother; I played her ugly, anguished child. How could we not become friends for life after that? She moved to New York a few years after I did, and I directed her first solo show, which has had crazy longevity. The shot below is from opening night of Yoga Bitch in London.

I'll be honest. I'm writing this post, in part, because I'm now back in New York and reflecting on what I left behind in Seattle. But there's also this uncomfortable fact: H&M has come to Seattle. And I'm happy for you, Seattle. Really, I am. But each of my sisters visit me in New York fairly regularly, and I'm concerned that while they like seeing me, and while the city has some merits of its own, it's really H&M that brings them back.

So I'm thinking that now's the time to ratchet up the violins good and loud, so that maybe you'll still find time to come see your big/little/twin sister in New York.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TBA Shots

A roundup of photos from our last night at the festival:

Our wonderful technician, Josh, getting kissed by Camille, while our other technician, Jen, laughs in the background.

Mark Russell, saying goodbye at the end of his three year curatorship, and employing the Flash Choir to help him thank everyone. It was beautiful and moving.

This man, Clay, made a cape for Mike, because he thought (quite rightly) that he would look good with a Mexican wrestler cape. Mike wore it for the rest of the night rather imperiously. He would wear it every day for the rest of his life if he could get away with it.

Reggie came back to say goodbye. He spoke quite eloquently about what Mark has done for him, and then performed a set of tunes that nailed the festival and the city in the most loving way possible.

Floyd and Marc, two new friends.

And a very old friend: Amanda with her unforgettable, world-class lemon souffle pancakes: our final meal in Portland.

Be back soon, Portland, I hope. Thanks.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Au Revoir and Ego Check

Sunday was the last night of the festival and today Mike and I are packing up our stuff, pausing for some brunch with our dear friends Amanda and Bill and their 3 dogs, and then hitting the road for Seattle.

We've been festivaling for 10 days: performed 2 different monologues over 6 performances; Mike's also performed short improvised bits at 3 different late-night events; we've stayed up until 4 AM every night and then gotten up early to go to morning radio interviews and technical rehearsals and workshops and panels; and we've both got slight tattoos from all the stamps our right wrist has endured. It's been good. We are tired.

One thing I will not miss is being called The Wife. Even in painfully-politically-correct Portland, you wouldn't believe how many people have addressed me as such. Mike was quite the festival darling, earning reviews with ecstatic headlines like this one. Then at the festival after-party, people would surround Mike to bask in his greatness. More than one asked him "Is it hard being so amazing?" Seriously.

Whenever he introduced me he'd take care to call me his director and say my full name. And 9 times out of 10, the response was, "Oh! You're The Wife!" One woman even told me she'd assumed I was some kind of "clingy groupie" or maybe a handler hired by the festival to make sure Mike had everything he needed at all times.

In a more substantive conversation about the monologues with another woman who was actually quite lovely, she emitted a gasp of surprise and told me it had never occurred to her that I might be as invested in the work as Mike was.


On to Seattle to work on Yoga Bitch, where no one will call me The Wife or be surprised that the director is deeply obsessed with the art.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Don't Eat the Baby

From our visit with the Tyneses and their delightful progeny:

They are inspiring in how active they remain, visiting museums, zoos, plays, parks, etc., determined not to get in the habit of staying in just because they have a baby.

It was a visit made all the better by it being at the Continental, my favorite breakfast place in all of Seattle. The lovely Greek woman who runs the place (along with other family) has always reminded me of a younger version of my grandmother. But now that I was there with a baby, I could see their similarities even more clearly. She greeted the baby with as much delight as if it were her own grandchild, and did everything she could to make sure the parents had what they needed to keep the baby comfortable.

I found myself missing my babcia, but in a good way.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nancy's Dream

Email from my friend and fellow pug-lover, Nancy:

Hey JM and Mike,

You guys starred in my dream last night. We wandered into a small theater in the round in Manhattan before a show started.

You each spontaneously took the stage, started improvising (very impressively, I might add) using a squeaky toy rat as a prop. When the squeaky rat landed in my lap, not only did I have nothing to say, but I was freaked out by the rat as though it were a real one.

All this is just to say: Hi! I hope you're both doing well.

I love weird dreams.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Live from PDX

We're in Portland, Oregon now, land of vibrant, punky hair, dog-friendly shops, heavily tattooed limbs, and menus with as many vegan options as omni- and vegi- combined. I'm writing this entry from Powell's of course.

We're here for the Time-Based Art Festival, a lovely smorgasbord of high art and high fun. Often when you're performing at a festival you don't have time to take in anyone else's work because you're so focused on getting your own thing off the ground. In our case, we're very lucky because we've got two different shows and a few days off in between each, which means that we're getting to see quite a few other pieces.

Last night we saw Tim Crouch's piece ENGLAND. It was extraordinary. So intimate and affecting, at just 60 minutes it packs a punch. We had to engage in cupcake therapy immediately after. Seattle folks, take note: the piece is coming to Seattle immediately after its run here. Don't miss it! It's performed in an art gallery (in Seattle, at the Henry, one of my favorites). This is a rare opportunity to see something completely out of the usual. It will take you outside of yourself and then put you pack together again, but slightly reassembled. That's what we want our art to do, isn't it? Only four performances--buy now.

A triple-header tonight that includes a walking tour in Portland of a city that is not Portland, some sexually-charged shenanigans from Bridget Everett and Kenny Mellman, and an episode of Reggie and Tommy's OCCURRENCE at The Works, which Mike will participate in.

If you can't join us in Portland, check out this wonderful audio excerpt from Mike about the experience of staying here. This is actually from a performance over three years ago, when we were doing a run at Portland Center Stage, but it still holds true.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

Last night, at Seattle's Town Hall, Mike performed with Reggie Watts for the first time in a brand-new show whose shtick was as simple as it was gratifying. The title of the piece was "Frequently Asked Questions: Mike Daisey and Reggie Watts Explain the Meaning of Life." Index cards were circulated through the packed house (800 people!) on which folks wrote down questions like, "Is it ever a good idea to buy things off of infomercials?" and "Why do I make out with people I'm not even attracted to?"

Reggie and Mike shared the stage brilliantly, as if they'd done this many times before. Each has such a strong presence, but neither overshadowed the other. At times Reggie would play the piano to underscore Mike's answers or create an ambiance on his Magic Looping Machine, or break things up with a bit of understated physical comedy.

Some of my favorite moments: Mike's extended fantasia on the perils of bees and sharks, Reggie's songs answering the questions, "Why won't he marry me?" and "If prostitution is the world's oldest profession, what was the first prostitute paid with?" (The answer is stones, though it turns out to be much more complicated than that.) I also liked Mike's quick answer to "Why are Americans so bad at history?" ("Because it hasn't happened to them yet.")

They also dedicated a whole section to the gazillion Sarah Palin-related questions submitted. Reggie set the sonic mood while Mike simply read off question after question, providing no answers, but reassuring everyone in the house that we, at least, were all on the same page.

Oh! And to the question "Why do I make out with people I'm not even attracted to?", Mike chided that questioners should always leave phone numbers. With the next basket of questions came an index card bearing only a phone number. When Mike read it out loud, the house fell apart. Unlike the other cards, which were tossed to the floor once read, Mike carefully folded it and put it in his pocket. Later, at the bar, we made him call her. He left a message, but our mystery girl never appeared.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wedding Prep

Photos from the actual wedding to come, but first: a round-up of shots from the days just prior.

The bride getting her nails done with her MOH, Lynn.

Jesse, member of her wedding party, helping prep food for the rehearsal dinner. (The groom cooked everything, and it was plentiful and delicious.)

The bride, dancing up a storm a few nights before, at her bachelorette party.

Two more bachelorette party revelers, sisters Sarah and Emma. (I used to babysit them! But then I kicked Sarah's front tooth out. Long story.)

Ruth and Sarah at Sephora, buying makeup for the big day.

Isn't she gorgeous? That's not just the bride-to-be: that's my little sister.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Travelmonkeys, Unite!

While Mike and I were gallivanting across Europe and Asia, our pug was in Seattle with my parents, who took care of him for five weeks. We missed him terribly, and spent more time than I should probably admit discussing what a hit he'd be in Dushanbe, Istanbul, Groningen, etc.

But now the Travelmonkey pack has been reunited--and the Pacific Northwest has graced us with ideal weather for long, woodsy walks.

Big thanks to my mom and dad for taking care of him for such a long time. Not only did they do an amazing job--they fed us wild salmon on our first night back. Delicious!