I don’t think anyone took a bad picture in Central Park today. The beauty of the changing leaves. The sudden sunshine after a grey morning. Reasons to feel grateful. Alive one more day.
I had a ton of chores and work assignments to dedicate myself to this afternoon. But why? Why? Really? My friend called and invited me out to Chamomile Tea near the Sheep’s Meadow. We sat on a tall rock and chatted. Percussionist drumming. Rollerskaters’ disco beat pulsing.
Leaves falling like snowballs.
Riding my bike out of the park on 72nd. Guitarists sit near the Imagine memorial, strum, “All You Need is Love.” Strawberry Fields behind me. Sunset ahead of me.
Last year I pretended I was going to Dublin as I celebrated Bloomsday with the Irish American Bar Association in Lower Manhattan. But this summer I really am going to Dublin for the Dublin Writers Retreat (Join me!)
Just goes to show that sometimes you dream on your blog and your bloggy dreams come true.
I am going to dream (and hoist a few) at this year’s Bloomsday celebration again and see what dreams may come. (Join me!)
Let me remind those of you who were not English majors and who do not live with your noses in books: Bloomsday is celebrated June 16th, chronicling one typical, working class day in Dublin, 1904.
Joyce found the extraordinary in the ordinary. But I don’t think he did meant to write some exotic literary masterpiece. He meant to recreate a city’s ebb and flow. And now, every year on June 16th, dozens of places in the world read or enact or discuss or celebrate this literary day. And I am one of them.
I find that Bloomsday is a more authentic holiday for the Irish and the Irish American diaspora than St. Patrick’s Day.
In the US, the book is also one reason we do not censor. It had been banned until 1933 because it was deemed obscene and pornographic. Judge John Woolsey lifted the ban, writing:
“In writing ‘Ulysses’ Joyce sought to make a serious experiment in a new if not wholly novel literary genre.
“Joyce has attempted- it seems to me with astonishing success- to show how the screen of the consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries as it were on a plastic palimpsest not only what is in the focus of each man’s observation of the actual things about him, but also in a penumbral zone residua of past impressions, some recent and some drawn up by association from the domain of the subconscious.
“The words which are criticized as dirty are old Saxon words known to almost all men, and, I venture, to many women, and are such words as would be naturally and habitually used, I believe, by the types of folk whose life, physical and mental, Joyce is seeking to describe.
“If one does not wish to associate with such folks as Joyce describes, that is one’s own choice.”
So, zoom back in your consciousness, people, to present-day Ireland.
Who are ‘such folks’? A minute ago, ‘such folks’ were marginalized. But today, isn’t Joyce rolling in his grave? Don’t you wish that Oscar Wilde could somehow know that Ireland is accepting of homosexuals — the first country to legalize same-sex marriage? Whoah! I am even more ecstatic to visit Ireland now. For a spirit of openness and tolerance and — dare I say — love for people is blowing! And this can only be good.
In other news, our vice president’s 46-year old son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer on May 30. And this reminds me: gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Life is short. So short. Too short.
Celebrate Bloomsday. Celebrate every stupid, ordinary day! For in the ordinary, there is magic.
I will be at the Irish American Bar Association of New York’s Bloomsday celebration, pontificating on the beauty and wonders of the ordinary. Join me.
Although I cannot discuss the criminal trial I am being considered for, I can disclose what happened in the hallway.
Apparently, a very large light-skinned bald man (Large Man) ran out of his courtroom and ran towards the elevator bank and a set of open windows.
We were on the 13th floor. (The building does not have a 12th floor, but has a 13th floor? What?)
Earlier, I had been talking to Juliana on the phone from that very windowsill. I had been sitting, taking notes when a glamorous cop told me, shaking her head, “Do not sit on the windowsill.” I complied.
I swear. At that time, I had thought, someone could so easily jump out these windows.
And that, I believe, was the Large Man’s intent. I did not see him run, pursued by cops. I was in a nearby stairwell, (again, on the phone). We were on break from this loooooong jury selection process.
But I did hear and see a cop came running down the stairs next to me. I followed him. There was some police action right in the hallway.
Another juror told me that she saw it all — the Large Man, hand-cuffed, running down the hall with several cops in pursuit. When he climbed up on the windowsill, they pulled him down. I did hear the thump on the marble when the Large Man hit the marble floor.
The Large Man started screaming. Another cop told me later that the Large Man was screaming to get his handcuffs off, but the court officers could not comply. (My fellow juror told me he wore two sets of handcuffs.) Another officer shoo-ed us out of eye shot. But later, he told us, it was for our own protection, and not because Large Man was being hurt.
All 50 or so of us jurors looked at each other, slightly worried, eyeing the elevator bank, where all this commotion was happening, until they wheeled the Large Man on a stretcher out through the service elevator.
I said to my fellow juror, “That must’ve been traumatic to see him up on the windowsill, wanting to jump.”
She said, “Didn’t see much. I got out of the way in case the cops had to shoot him.”
I know I mostly blog about how much I love NYC and how beautiful and safe NYC is. And you can see from my photos of trees, flowers, picnics, museums, and Broadway shows, it’s true. But I guess I must admit there is a seamy side to the city. Fortunately, I only see this side every four years when I serve my stint on jury duty.
This was the surreptitious photo I took of the incident — after the cops told us, basically, ‘Move along. Nothing to see here, folks.’ And this incident is why jury service at the criminal courts in Manhattan is not for the faint of heart.
I saw Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons in previews on Broadway the other night. I liked it. It threw me back to a really sad time. This play is the story of a deceased actor’s mother showing up like 25 years later, after all this time, to reminisce about her son with his beloved.
I think the two main characters, the mother and the lover, want forgiveness from each other. And basically I want that too. I want the characters to love each other, to get over their awkwardness.
The mother, played by the amazing Tyne Daly, cannot give love and can hardly give acceptance. The two circle one another without coming to a resolution. Fortunately the new husband, played by Bobby Steggert, and the couple’s son arrive. Just in time, to cut through the BS and awkwardness.
These two are the heroes because of their forthrightness – the new husband calls out the mother’s past injustices and the little boy articulates the family’s need for a grandmother.
The play reminded me of how the AIDS crisis in NYC swamped us. I felt overwhelmed by this again, when my son was reading Angels in America for his Constructing America class and he asked me and Chris, “Did you lose friends to AIDS?” And we told him “Yes.” Among them, Chris’s actor friend Robert Farber, a great artist, a great friend, whom we visited in his West Village apartment when he was getting close to death. And I think that we are still bothered that we didn’t visit him more.
So the play brought that up for me – how much of yourself do you give when you know someone is dying?
It was particularly heart-wrenching in the play when the survivor told his lover’s mother, “You and I are the only ones who still remember him.”
I don’t think that’s true. There are people, like me and Chris, friends on the margins, who remember. We know what happened and we still talk about it.
In the ’90s, I used to host my TV show, Mary Beth and Friends, at Manhattan Neighborhood Network right after Act Up taped their show. And I would schmooze with the on-camera people and the crew. I told them their stuff was cool, their interviews, their lying down protests, their silence=death. And I told them I supported them. But honestly, they weren’t all that interested in my opinion. They appreciated my support, I guess. But let’s face it, they had bigger issues.
It was a crazy time. I worked at the Vista Hotel in the World Trade Center in the mid-late ’80s and lost a friend, fellow front desk clerk, He was a few years older than me and I was still in college. And he seemed to be one of the first deaths by AIDS. And it was so very hushed, very uncertain, a gay man’s disease, that we didn’t know how to talk about it. We didn’t have the words.
The play reminded me about all that. About how we talk or don’t talk about death and dying. A year or so, I bumped into an actor friend whose partner/friend had died of AIDS. I told him I still often remembered his friend fondly. In the coffee shop, we didn’t get all maudlin. We just reminisced. We just talked about his friend, like it was 9/11. Like, such a tragedy. Still, it had not stopped our lives. Remembering a death can cause us to stop in our tracks, unprepared for grief, but the remembering doesn’t make us stop living.
That’s the thing about Mothers and Sons and the death of someone you love — you see that serious illness, death even, doesn’t stop loved ones from living. You can’t stop living, even when someone you love is sick or dying. (And, of course, for me, this brings up Chris’s Parkinson’s. How can I stop myself from living? How can I not stop and treasure each day? Each day, a gift.)
Now, about my home girl, Tyne Daly – she just throws lines out there, so naturalistically. I love her arch intelligence. She owns the stage. The other actors were wonderful too, but it was hard to know if their awkwardness was due to the great lady on stage with them or just the scenario of the play itself – the mother of a deceased ex descending for a night on your boisterous, wonderful, ongoing family life.
What can you do? Keep living. Keep remembering. Keep talking. Silence=death.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Mothers and Sons and Pivoting Media for the tickets. The opinions on this blog are always my own.
Yesterday I was at the awesome NYU Entrepreneurial Festival. A highlight for me was Luke Williams’ class on disruptive thinking. Here’s what I got out of it.
In your biz and in your life, chose the scary route. In this picture, look at the dude on the left, “Who is he? I don’t know — just the happiest guy I could find on the internet,” Williams said. “Why is he so happy? He’s complacent. He’s the face of all the companies we know. Doing what he’s always done, making small incremental changes.”
Like Kodak, everyone saw that Kodak’s biz was going down when digital cameras came along, but the CEO of Kodak basically said, “Why stick your hand in an engine that’s running?” If you’re the mechanic, you don’t reinvent the car while you’re supposed to fix it. Right? Williams is smart.
Now look at Janet Leigh. This is how your client or company should look — scared. And ready for change.
Hitchcock killed off his leading lady in the first 30 minutes of Psycho. No one had ever done that. Be like Hitchcock. Be counter-intuitive.
How do you do that? If sodas are supposed to be inexpensive, sweet, and aspirational; make them expensive, sour, and real.
Look for cliches — “widespread beliefs that govern the way people think and do business.” And then disrupt the cliches. Be like Little Mismatched, the company, that sells socks, not in pairs, but in singles or in threes.
Feed your own rebellious instinct — the one that wants change for the sake of change.
I plan to disrupt this endless winter with spring.
Spring starts in five days for me. I’m going to Sarasota, Florida for a few days, back to NYC for a few days, then to a dude ranch in Patagonia, Arizona with the family for almost a week, then just me and Hayden, my 11th grader, go to look to North Carolina (where I’ll offer a writing and art workshop with the fabulous Cindy Sloan.) And Hayden and I will visit a couple of colleges in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham for a few days.
I have been so slammed with work. Tomorrow and maybe a couple of more days this week, I’ll be subbing middle school English at a nearby prep school. I’m also continuing posts and articles with my fabulous blogging client. I have lovely tutoring jobs. I have an annual report due for a new client. I have to meet with my mentor to get my paperwork signed for my self employment assistance program.
I don’t want to disrupt my busy work life. But I don’t mind disrupting winter to get to spring. And summer.
Ellen Wade Beals at Solace in a Book invited me to join this blog tour. The idea is that I answer a few questions about my writing process and then introduce you to some new bloggers who might, next week, answer these same questions. And so it goes.
1) What am I working on?
a sexy novel, length of a kindle single (tentatively called Unwieldy Soul. No one likes the title.)
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
use of bullets
lack of proper punctuation and capitalization
I think I am known for my honesty. I have a tendency to be a little dramatic and a little funny.
I am pretty loose with my style. I believe that we should all push ourselves into dangerous terrain when we write. I’ve several times led a workshop called Dangerous Writing. I find the best essays show some break through, humiliation, self doubt, and ultimately, resilience. Yes, grit.
I write because I need a lot of attention. My husband is an actor who has Parkinson’s and well, he’s a fabulous person, and he needs attention too. And honestly, I know this is not true, but there are times I do not feel my life (or work) is as important as his.
And since I feel sidelined by my marriage or my husband’s illness, writing puts me back on the field as a star player, if only to myself. I love sports metaphors and am slightly athletic. But I love metaphors because they are visual. I am a visual thinker and a team player.
Inevitably, when I’ve felt like stopping this blog, someone tells me — at the checkout line in the grocery store or at a party for a school event — that she reads my blog and is inspired by it.
And people tell me they like my pictures (all taken with my iPhone 4S). And that keeps me going. That real life connection feeds me.
4) How does your writing process work?
I journal every morning, a la Artist’s Way, before the kids get up
I write right after the kids leave for school
I use the pomodoro technique. I set the timer on my phone for 25 minutes, let nothing interrupt me, do my work, stretch for 5 minutes. Then I do that again. And again.
I learned the pomodoro technique at my fabulous coworking space, New Work City. I get a lot of support there for my business. I like being accountable to my coworkers about my goals.
my writing business
I started this coaching-of-writers biz last year. I’ve offered dozens of workshops and weekend retreats. I’m giving it a good go. But as my spring meeting with my accountant creeps up on me, I am forced to face the reality: the business has brought in very little money to our household.
Last night one of my daughters asked me, “Isn’t it time you go back to work?” The kids think that they liked when I worked, but they forget how much they complained when I traveled for work.
I told her, “I’m doing so much and making some money too — substitute teaching, tutoring, videography, corporate blogging.”
“But that’s not from your writing workshop business?”
“And you’re not making as much as you used to make?”
“That’s true,” I agreed. “But look, I went to almost every one of your swim meets. I couldn’t have done that when I worked. And it’s been priceless.”
And so there it is. I write because I need the attention. I’m trying to promote my biz. And I’m trying to entertain, inspire, learn about myself, and show my own and my family’s resilience.
– m ;b
P.S. Let me introduce you to three bloggers, who might keep this blog tour rolling next week. They are writers I know and love IRL (in real life). I love their honesty and their integrity. I love their grit.
I started this blog about a year ago. I wrote one or two posts and got one or two visitors for the first four months, then I sort of lost my job and had more time (and things) to write about. In April of last year I started writing more posts and getting more readers, and I settled on writing two posts a week, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Since then I’ve written 106 posts and gotten almost 5,000 views.
Some posts do very well, some are hardly looked at. Some are shared on facebook, or reposted on other people’s blogs.
I’ve always written, and I guess I have to describe myself as a former drug abuser who works as a doorman and writes.
Wendy Karasin – We are friends from a women’s once-a-month writing group. Wendy worked in educational publishing, taught, and raised four children as a single parent. She says, “Losing my parents in relatively close proximity profoundly changed my life. And that’s the subject of my memoir, Passing Through.”
I have a distinct and hearty laugh that once heard is not soon forgotten. My mother used to say among a million people in China, she could locate me by my laugh. Curious, happy and responsible; conscientious, educated and playful – all wrapped up in a blogging, baby boomer. Love reading, writing, cats, yoga, kindness and connection.
And then, my brilliant biz partner Kelly Wallace. She has a lot of projects; here’s one:
working on a memoir tentatively titled “The Yellow Blanket” a manuscript about her experience as a child sexual abuse survivor and rejection by her entire paternal family system. The story opens with eight year old Kelly on the witness stand testifying in court against her grandfather. The focal point of the story focuses on the rejection Kelly experienced by her entire paternal family and her father’s legally aiding her grandfather’s defense team.
I used to audition a lot. That was back when I was in my early 30’s. I had a little cable TV show and a commercial agent who sent me on a ton of casting calls. I landed a few callbacks and a few international spots, but my acting career never really took off.
Maybe I lacked confidence or maybe I was slightly more quirky than super model-y. It didn’t matter, I told myself. I’m a writer first and I’ve got meaningful work. Besides that, in my mid-30s, I hit my stride when I discovered my life’s purpose: to be a mother to Hayden, Charlotte and Catherine.
So last year, when my Aunt Ellen, (the poet Ellen Wade Beals) recommended that I audition for the Listen To Your Mother show, I figured maybe now I’ve got a shot. I’m wiser and more confident. I’ve got a lot of funny essays about parenting. I can do this.
At the audition last year, I read a really good piece of writing — a story about dropping Hayden off at Camp Dudley. My essay was so funny and touching. (See what I mean: I have more confidence.)
When I read the Camp Dudley essay to the several women who were holding the auditions, I detected one (Holly, maybe?) had a tear in her eye.
“I nailed it,” I thought. “I’ve got it! I might still be a successful performer as well as mother, blogger, wife, sister, teacher, worker, etc. Wow! It’s great to be alive!”
But I didn’t get it last year — despite the excrutiating beauty of that little gem of writing. So this year, when I got an email alert about the 2013 auditions for Listen To Your Mother, I brought in a piece of writing, slightly above average, about a tricky little bit of mothering and taking out the garbage with my son.
I was the last to audition. There were dozens of people who’d gone through the audition door ahead of me that Sunday afternoon.
Through the door, I could tell that the guy in the room just before me was really really good. I sat outside, getting nervous. The room was full of laughter as he left.
I recognized the women behind the table from last year, including Holly. But I felt no ill will towards them, just my inevitable lack of success.
I felt insecure. I think I made small talk, something like, “Wow! That guy who was just in here sounded really funny! I don’t know if you remember me. I auditioned last year and I heard the show was really good!”
I read my piece, stumbling in a few places. I did not feel confident as I walked out the door. After all, the year before, when I had felt confident? Nada.
So I was surprised, no, I was ecstatic, when, like a week later, I got a call from Amy that I was invited to be in the cast.
I don’t know if my piece is any good, but the show is really really good. And that guy who went in ahead of me, Jamie Fernandez, he’s in the show too and he is really really funny. The brief stories about mothering and mothers are funny, sad, scary, true, and lovely.
But don’t listen to me. I am not a good judge of my own writing. This Sunday, Mother’s Day, come to Symphony Space. Tell me what you think. We’ll have a drink at the Thalia.
After a 15-year hiatus, which coincided with the birth of my three children, I have begun acting, writing, and directing short comedy films again. So fun.
There are so many more wonderful women comedians and directors out there now for me to emulate. Not like when I left the biz, way-back when. The world has moved on since the days of Mary Beth & Friends, my cable show on Manhattan Neighborhood Network in the early 1990s. There’s now Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, Nancy Franklin, Amy Poehler, and Kathryn Bigelow. Right, I know Zero Dark Thirty wasn’t a comedy but I just want to mention my name in the same category as Bigelow’s).
On December 1, my name was pulled out of a hat. I won the “Wanna Be a Star?” contest at the Iron Mule short comedy film festival. The next thing I know, I’m getting eyelash extensions. ‘Cause I’m hoping that my eyelashes will distract viewers from my crow’s feet (smile lines!). I’m wondering if the camera still loves me. Vanity!
The name of the movie was shouted from the audience, the Alan Ladd Syndrome. And so last month, I starred in a funny short film written and directed by Victor Vornado. (not available for viewing yet.)
The premise is that the less popular the actor Alan Ladd was, the shorter he grew. When I threatened to break up with my boyfriend, played by the hilarious Michael Martin, he claimed to have this syndrome too!
I had so much fun performing in this little film that I announced to my husband Chris, a broadway veteran, I’m going to call my old commercial agent to see if I can start auditioning for commercials again.
“Well,” he said slowly. “You reach a certain age…” And he paused, presumably, sparing my feelings.
“Really?” I said, defensively. “Because I see people like me in commercials all the time — dog food, Viagra, anti-depressants?!” Yes, that’s what I said and that, indeed, did make me feel depressed — in need of some dog food, Viagra, anti-depressant.