Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Poem for Father's Day


O my pa-pa

Our fathers have formed a poetry workshop.
They sit in a circle of disappointment over our fastballs
and wives. We thought they didn't read our stuff,
whole anthologies of poems that begin, My father never,
or those that end, and he was silent as a carp,
or those with middles which, if you think
of the right side as a sketch, look like a paunch
of beer and worry, but secretly, with flashlights
in the woods, they've read every word and noticed
that our nine happy poems have balloons and sex
and giraffes inside, but not one dad waving hello
from the top of a hill at dusk. Theirs
is the revenge school of poetry, with titles like
"My Yellow Sheet Lad" and "Given Your Mother's Taste
for Vodka, I'm Pretty Sure You're Not Mine."
They're not trying to make the poems better
so much as sharper or louder, more like a fishhook
or electrocution, as a group
they overcome their individual senilities,
their complete distaste for language, how cloying
it is, how like tears it can be, and remember
every mention of their long hours at the office
or how tired they were when they came home,
when they were dragged through the door
by their shadows. I don't know why it's so hard
to write a simple and kind poem to my father, who worked,
not like a dog, dogs sleep most of the day in a ball
of wanting to chase something, but like a man, a man
with seven kids and a house to feed, whose absence
was his presence, his present, the Cheerios,
the PF Flyers, who taught me things about trees,
that they're the most intricate version of standing up,
who built a grandfather clock with me so I would know
that time is a constructed thing, a passing, ticking fancy.
A bomb. A bomb that'll go off soon for him, for me,
and I notice in our fathers' poems a reciprocal dwelling
on absence, that they wonder why we disappeared
as soon as we got our licenses, why we wanted
the rocket cars, as if running away from them
to kiss girls who looked like mirrors of our mothers
wasn't fast enough, and it turns out they did
start to say something, to form the words hey
or stay, but we'd turned into a door full of sun,
into the burning leave, and were gone
before it came to them that it was all right
to shout, that they should have knocked us down
with a hand on our shoulders, that they too are mystified
by the distance men need in their love.

--Bob Hicok

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Home Sweet Home

You may have noticed that TRAVELMONKEYS has been less active of late. That's because it's supposed to chronicle life on the road, and the husband and the dog and I have been home all spring long, soaking in the bohemian Brooklyn brownstone life.

All of that's about to end. Actually it's already over: I'm writing this from Washington D.C., leg one of our many-legged summer development tour as we whip our newest monologue into shape. But before I get into all that, I thought I'd take a moment to quickly chronicle what it is we spent our spring doing.

1. We saw lots of plays.

And while most of the performances took place in very fine theaters, pictured above was an afternoon of short plays staged in a beautiful Brooklyn backyard--made all the more beautiful by the fact that the plays were accompanied by a keg and barbecue.

2. We visited.

...with all the friends and colleagues we don't see when we're out of town. Facebook is great, but long meals over a shared bottle of wine are better. In the case of the photo above, we were visited by my aunt and uncle from Irving, Texas, who made time for a leisurely lunch at Frankie's.

3. We were Surprised.

Following the success of The Surprise at the Frigid Fest in February (Audience Choice Award), the folks at terraNOVA invited Martin and me to be a part of their annual solo performance festival, soloNOVA.

The New York Times came and had some nice things to say (including "deftly constructed" and "truly vivid"), and then the folks at DR2 and terraNOVA decided to recognize Martin as the "Breakthrough Performer of the Year"--kudos that came with the opportunity to perform The Surprise back-to-back with the first monologue he and I worked on, Wanderlust.

Now Martin is off taking both shows around the country and through Canada. You can follow his exploits through his website, and if you're in San Francisco, Toronto, Winnipeg, or Ontario, you should check him out when he comes to town.

4. We took Pilates.

(Ok, I'm using the royal "we" here.) I'd been curious about Pilates for a while, especially since my good friend Kyra opened up her own Pilates studio in Boerum Hill, but was never home for a long enough stretch to give it a go. Turns out Kyra is an amazing teacher, and under her watchful eye I learned a lot about my body and was able to develop a mat routine I can take on the road with me.

5. We wore sequins before noon.

Spring is the season of theater awards parties and benefits, which gave us plenty of excuses to get gussied up. The highlight was probably the Drama League luncheon, to which we were invited because If You See Something Say Something was nominated in two categories: "Distinguished Production" and "Distinguished Performance." Mike was seated on the dais with the likes of Angela Lansbury, Cynthia Nixon, Jeremy Irons, John Lithgow, Jane Alexander, Jane Fonda, Geoffrey Rush, David Hyde Pierce . . . and he got caught in a bear hug by Sir Elton John!

6. We ate a lot of bacon.

We decided to launch a new series called Mysteries of the Unexplained. The idea being that Mike takes some seemingly trivial element of our modern life and devotes a whole hour to it in a one-night-only, never-to-be-repeated affair. The idea also being that the material should be lighter and brighter than the stuff we've been doing in the full-length monologues. Hence, the topics of our first two shows:

In May, Facebook! (You can listen to the entire show here.)

And in June, Bacon! This show was particularly fun because the entire time that Mike was speaking from his desk, Obie-award winning actress Heidi Schreck was grilling bacon live onstage, building up an enormous pile that was then served to the audience at the show's conclusion.

You know what I discovered? People really like bacon.

7. We cleaned out the closet.

This was an exasperating affair, and again, I'm using the royal "we" because really, I did it all by myself--and to myself. You see, Mike was gone for the day and I thought I'd surprise him by giving the house a really thorough cleaning. But for some reason this involved opening the doors to the closet and thinking that I could just quickly bring a little order to the chaos. It was like a microcosm of Iraq: eight hours later, Mike walked through the door and the front room looked like what you see above.

But oh, if you could see inside the closet now! I threw away so many things . . . including the custom-made Starbucks cups the prop shop at Portland Center Stage built for us in 2005 for our run of 21 Dog Years and a do-it-yourself specimen kit sent to me in 2001 by folks at the University of Washington who hoped I'd continue to supply data for a study I'd signed up for while in college. Nope.

8. We administrated.

My landlady asked me if I liked being on the road so much. The truth is that while I really enjoyed our spring at home in Brooklyn, when we're not out working we're home doing all the administrative stuff that gets us the gigs the rest of the year. And when we're home, there's always more work to do, always more initiatives to be launched, always more closets to be cleaned. Generally speaking, home lacks the clarity and focus that I find when we're in another city, putting on a show.

So I'm glad that spring is over and summer is here. I'm glad to be living out of my suitcase again with 2 dresses, 4 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shoes. I've got my husband, my dog, my computer, my iPhone, and a brand-new show to launch on Monday. Hallelujah.

And when I have a moment, I'll update the side-bar with all the places we'll be going in 2009 and 2010. So many new cities! And a tour of the Yukon! Just think of all the TRAVELMONKEYS posts to come!