Caption Correction

“That is so awkward!” Charlotte said in the cab.

See, I had just posted a picture from her soccer game on my Instagram and it flipped over, as usual, to Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter too.

I tagged Charlotte and captioned the pic, “That’s my girl, on the ball.” I noticed some friends and family liked and cheered.

Only my picture wasn’t of my Charlotte. It was another kid named Charlotte. My Charlotte was right behind her.

“What can I say?” I defended myself. (I can be defensive.) “It was bright – you were far across the field.”

“But I don’t even have those shoes!”

I could not claim that I was confused by the usual screams from the sidelines.

No one was yelling, “Go, Charlotte!” or anything, because it was Silent Sunday. Parents were not allowed to yell, neither were the coaches.

For this one day, soccer was like golf. We watched intently. We concentrated. It was peaceful. Until the cab ride when one of my favorite subjects pointed out that I had misidentified her. Then, it was so awkward!

Below you can obviously see that the first pic is not my Charlotte, but the next one is. I think.

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A Night With Janis

I don’t really remember Janis Joplin. She was a little before my time.

I was more of a Carly Simon girl. But I love girl rock – like Pink, Joan Jett, Adele. Janis was the first, a trail-blazer, a Texan, a woman who told it like it was.

I felt like I made a friend at the Lyceum Theatre the other night.

Mary Bridget Davies played Janis with an uncanny likeness. She has an extraordinary voice. I did worry about her. How can she do that gravely rocker girl scream and not lose her voice?

As a performer, Davies held nothing back. She gave it all. And this is the beauty of Janis, I learned. She had an unbridled passion.

Almost every other number featured one of the amazing performers who were also the back up singers — Taprena Michelle Augustine, De’Adre Aziza, Allison Blackwell and Nikki Kimbrough. They were divas in their own rights. In that order, they played Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Etta James.

This is the second musical I’ve seen in a few months that has featured Nina Simone as a kind of guardian angel character. I’m getting to think she deserves her own musical. The other musical with Simone was Soul Doctor, the story of Rebbe Schlomo Carlebach, a Jewish recording artist, from the 1960s, who professed and lived a life devoted to love and God. That musical, like this one, was about a ’60s cult figure. But that musical had a narrative arc; this musical was a straight up rock concert.

And like a concert, the audience was key. The artists totally communicated.

So many songs brought the crowd to their feet. My favorite was Piece of My Heart. God, that song is brutal. Janis truly seemed to give a piece of herself. You do wonder if that is healthy, especially given the rocker’s early death. Such a loss. Because I bet Janis would’ve loved to see the evolution of girl rock into woman rock.

And selfishly, I wish Janis Joplin didn’t die, because I made a friend that night, and I’d like to see her again sometime.

Disclaimer: Thanks to A Night With Janis and Serino/Coyne for the tickets. The opinions on this blog are always my own.

Thanks to Joan Marcus for the pics of the performance. That picture of the curtain? Yup, that first one is mine!

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Blessing of the Animals

Last Sunday I went to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Francis. It was so peaceful even though there were so many animals in the sanctuary. The music of Paul Winter filled the immense Gothic cavern with the sounds of whales and wolves.

A restless set of boys and dogs in the row in front of us left before it was over so they missed the exotic animals as they paraded (processed) down the center aisle.

The procession of animals was lovely and mind-blowing. You can see a rat carried proudly by preteen girl. I loved the humility of the goats and sheep, made all majestic by a wreath of flowers around their necks! There is beauty in the humility of animals. There was a pig and my favorite, a kangaroo. On the way out, a yak!

I so dug the anomaly of animals in church – the sacredness of animals. That which is ordinary became extraordinary.

I am not really an animal-lover, but I appreciate their lack of subtext.

I left the cathedral, oddly, filled with reverence. There is a variety to life — a vastness of our ecosystems and our living relations that is truly awesome. I can only imagine there must be a creator when you see the variety in God’s creation (and in the crazy matrix of evolution).

Here are some pics I snapped at the service. Thanks to Joanna Parson for getting me to St. John the Divine this year, something I have always wanted to do and now have done! I recommend you experience this beauty too!

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Yes pets resemble their owners. A lot of dogs, cats, hamsters exist peaceably in the sanctuary.
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The Cathedral of St. John the Divine
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Restless kids with hamsters and dogs, waiting for the blessing of the pets.
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The communion line with dogs.
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llama
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pig in church
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Glorious turtle
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This parrot loves NY
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little pony in the sactuary
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white goose
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my favorite, a kangaroo!
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I have no idea what this animal is
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All this beauty in the largest Gothic cathedral in the U.S.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred . . . let me sow love. Where there is injury . . . pardon. Where there is doubt . . . faith. Where there is despair . . . hope. Where there is darkness . . . light. Where there is sadness . . . joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled . . . as to console, To be understood . . . as to understand; To be loved . . . as to love, For It is in giving . . . that we receive. It is in pardoning . . . that we are pardoned, It is in dying . . . that we are born to eternal life.” – St. Francis (c. 1181 – 1226)

In other words: Today, let me get out of my way. Let me find beauty in my ordinary world. Let me hear the music of nature. Let me be someone who goes with the flow. Let me not judge people harshly. Let me be kind and generous. Just for today.

Stay Away from Gravity

So, this morning, this happened.

It was 8 am and I was walking around the block after walking my kids to their school bus stop. I noticed this piece of edifice on the sidewalk. I looked up wondering where it fell from. Like a jigsaw puzzle, I found the niche.

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So I called 311. (I did not call 911). While I was getting transferred to the building department, busybody that I am, I pointed out the brick-like piece of architecture to every dogwalker and child walker who passed.

“Look at this piece of architecture! It came from that building right there.” I was not put on hold for long. I gave the address to the building agency (grateful that our city infrastructure was intact — that the government shut down did not reduce the response time.)

And boy, did they respond! 20131007-090004.jpg

Officer Iosilevich came knocking at my door. See, my doorman, who had been tipped off by my neighbor, pointed out that I was the complainant in this edifice-falling potential disaster. I remind you. I dialed 311 — not 911. (I love 311, the city’s hotline number.)20131007-085926.jpg

This was the fallen cornice — as big as a brick. You can see the impact on the sidewalk. Within 30 minutes of my call, I got that knock on the door. I discovered that four firetrucks and two cop cars had responded. 20131007-090031.jpg

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Officer Iosilevich told me it was a good thing that I called. I wondered if the building owners would be fined or required to make their building safe.

I went back home. It wasn’t even 9 am and I had begun my job, saving the city, one complaint at a time.

Incidentally, at lunch time, I headed down to 57th Street to the Carnegie Hall block where I was going to see the movie Gravity at the Director’s Guild. But the street was closed due to a wobbly crane atop a building. I could not get down the block to see the movie Gravity, but I appreciate the gravity of gravity.

It Must Be October

On an autumn walk, these wildflowers said, "Hello. We are still beautiful."
On an autumn walk, these wildflowers said, “Hello. We are still beautiful.”

I feel old.

It must be October.

It must be the pumpkin-flavored everything.

I am no longer pumpkin-flavored.

I am nutmeg. Nutty.

I see my reflection in the subway window.

I think,

“I need Botox.”

The train travels through Cornwall on the trestle. Sunset.
The train travels through Cornwall on the trestle. Sunset.

I am becoming

invisible – like all the New York belles, wrinkled, made up,

inevitable.

I don’t care – and then

I start singing –

“I don’t care. I love it.”

I am silly, happy. humming to myself on the subway.

I am not yet that creeping cold November.

I am still this playful hot October.

In the beginning of the autumn month.

I am still jumping in a pile of leaves, singing songs to and of myself.

It must be October.

I don’t care.

I love it.

Mary Beth Coudal
I am in October.
United Methodist Retreat House
This is where we (bootcamp4writers.com) had our beautiful fall retreat.

Biking Adventure

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my view while teaching. And the shadow of my students
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This is an awesome place to explore.
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Along the West Side bikeway
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Around the uptown Fairway
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The George Washington Bridge and the little red lighthouse creep up on you

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The detour under the highway

Yesterday I took a long bike ride, from where I was teaching — around Central Park and 77th to 180th and Broadway for my girlfriends’ craft club.

I took the bikeway. Around the uptown Fairway, I had to detour under the West Side Highway.

Like when I run, when I ride, I am not fast. That gives me time to talk to myself. And time to think. Too often, I scold myself. So last night, I was trying just to be. Just to notice.

Notice the generosity of the Hudson River. Notice the crazy summer flowers that refuse to believe summer is almost over.

Coming back home, in the complete dark, I did not have so much fun. Many places along the path are pitch black and I don’t have a light. I need more light.

A Little More

Last night we saw A Little More Than You Wanted To Spend, a funny, sad one-man show with and by Chris Clavelli about the death of his 6-year old son Jess.

clavelliThis sucks. I mean the play is awesome, but the show reminds you that life sucks.

Life is a total crap shoot. You get shit. You get joy. You live. You die. Other people live and die too.

You have to talk about it. You have to write about it. You have to tell about it. You have to live it. You have to make something, maybe theater, out of it.

The sucky part, sometimes, is living on and getting up when you feel like curling up in bed and not getting up.

***

Taking the garbage out last night with my daughter Charlotte, one of our neighbors, a former Hollywood starlet from the 1950s (and this is not even giving her away because we have several senior actresses in our building), asked me, “How’s your boyfriend?” or something like that.

Charlotte looked at me quizzically.

“He’s doing good,” I said, about my husband. “He’s got a great creative spirit. Is directing a show upstate this summer.

The former starlet said, “He’s wonderful. He’s got a twinkle in his eye and great artistry despite the tragedy of his life.”

We said good bye at the recycling bin.

“What did she say?” Charlotte asked. “The what of his life?”

“The tragedy. I suppose, she meant the tragedy of his Parkinson’s diagnosis,” I told my daughter.

I don’t think of my husband Chris’s life as a tragedy.

This is not the first time a neighbor has used stark terms to refer to my husband’s disease in front of my kids. I guess, in the dailiness of life, the reality of Chris’s illness is not a tragedy, it’s normal.

It is not always a comedy, but tragedy? I don’t know.  Chris feels he is lucky. He feels there are worse diagnoses.

***

This is the second time I’ve seen Clavelli’s play. It’s blown me away. Made me laugh and cry.

I am friends with Clavelli, and his girlfriend Leonisa, who funnily enough, was my work out buddy at my former workplace, before she and Clavelli got together.

The play reminded me to hug my darlings, to love the people in my life, to laugh and cry with them, to talk about truths, to listen to other people’s truths, to make art.

When someone tells their truth, I can’t argue or judge. Hearing someone’s truth makes me want to tell my truth. Because, I know, making art is a way of healing.

Life is a tragic-comedy.

***

Any way, go see Clavelli’s show. It’s really good. It’s only running in June in NYC.

Related stories

Chris Clavelli

A Little More Than You Wanted To Spend

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