Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Trifecta

Yesterday, I'm driving home from a fundraising meeting at Maxwell's school when I hear the following three news items on the radio back to back:

-A mountain lion was wandering around downtown Santa Monica.

-A single-engined plane crashed into suburban Glendale.

-A $50,000 reward was offered for anyone who has information about a double hit-and-run that fatally killed a 79 year old woman from Pacoima.

And that terrifying news trifecta made me stop texting my husband, grip the steering wheel with both hands, and take in my surroundings as if at any moment destruction could be hurled into my path.

Southern California with all of its earthquakes, mudslides, heat strokes and Kardashians feels as if it has gotten more deadly. It's lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my...literally. The lion of yesterday, few weeks ago a mama grizzly and two of her young were spotted curled up in a tree in a residential area of Altadena, and the tigers...well, off the top of my head I don't recall any tiger sightings, but give it time. I'm sure a couple will break out of the zoo any day now.

Unfortunately the mountain lion had to be killed after failed attempts to tranquilize it. The plane, thankfully, did not harm anyone, even the pilot escaped with minor injuries, but it did knock out three major electric lines, causing 300 homes to lose power. This leaves the most dangerous of the three unrelated stories, oh my, being the two who hit-and-ran and elderly lady on her way to church. They were described as a Hispanic man driving a red Nissan pick-up and a white woman driving a white Chevrolet Monte Carlo. And they are still at large.

As we approach summer there is a chill in the air.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Homomony



I'll be  honest, I was okay with his chess-playing ways. I trusted that his bald eagle emblazoned plate was pretty dog gone full. I mean, his to do list from the outset was enough to make most people curl up into a ball and take a nap for four years. I didn't need nor expect him to take the pro stance until well into his second term. But President Obama's announcement last week that he is now in support of gay marriage caught in my throat and brought tears to my eyes in a way I could not have anticipated.

A sitting president of the United States has finally supported not only homomony, but also my own personal lifestyle, my marriage, my children and...in a word...me. Boy howdy, I cried like Sherri Shepherd after she was kicked off of Dancing with the Stars.

When I examine it, however, my emotionality may not solely belong to this momentous event. Let's face it, this last week was one for the books when it comes to gay marriage and gay marriage adjacent news. Day after day we were bombarded with juicy items culminating with our president's announcement.

Let me start with the joyous fact that my husband and I just celebrated our eleventh anniversary. Not that it's a legally recognized eleven years, but after the planning, the church ceremony, the one hundred fifty guests, the reception complete with open bar, photo booth and Go Big Daddy Band (only to be followed by a joint mortgage, living wills and two adopted children) I challenge anyone to find a couple more married (in or out of quotation marks) than we are. I love my husband, and I'm proud we made it to our steel wedding anniversary. (Who created the anniversary gift list? What was I supposed to give the man? Lug nuts?)

Seemingly unrelated, Maurice Sendak, the children's author and illustrator who showed us Where the Wild Things Are passed away at 83. Among Sendak's many accomplishments were working with Jim Henson, producing a children's show with Carole King, designing sets for opera and ballet, and winning numerous awards including the Caldecott Medal for children's literature. Sendak was also gay, something he didn't make public until 2008, one year after the passing of his partner of fifty years, Eugene Glynn. Now, I don't pretend to know Mr. Sendak or Mr. Glynn. They were of a different time when being discrete was a way of survival, but I have to wonder had the laws been different, had in their day a sitting president espoused acceptance, would they have publicly come out of the closet, or might they have taken it a step further and chosen homomony? And in examining Mr. Sendak's own words, Let the wild rumpus start, I'd like to think they would have.

Even John Travolta and the many male massage therapists he allegedly fondled, propositioned, and masturbated in front of over the years came to mind. I can't help but speculate if the man who brought to life Vinnie Barbarino, Tony Manero and a Cher-sounding Edna Turnblad was given the freedom to live his true life, if he didn't have to worry about perceptions and innuendo while being a box office success, if he could have married the man of his dreams (still speculating) without fretting about the shadow of Scientology, there might not be a mountain of sexual harassment law suits piling up at a furious rate.

Also, last week, pulpits across North Carolina were abuzz with anti gay marriage rhetoric. Religious leaders encouraged their parishioners to vote for the passing of Amendment One, which would make the state's ban on same sex marriage a constitutional amendment. (Excuse me, Ma'am, but your church and state are commingling.) And no one was louder than Pastor Sean Harris, who gained notoriety when he proselytized, "Dads, the second you see your sons dropping the limp wrists, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch." Sentences made only more horrifying by congregants heard in the background punctuating Harris's words with jovial laughter and heartfelt Amens. Without quite apologizing, Harris has since admitted that he got caught up in the moment and probably shouldn't have used such violent imagery, and actually likened himself Jesus who he says also used hyperbole to get his message across to his flock. I'm feeling generous today, so let's take him at his word. My concern, however, is for those in the congregation who egged him on with relish and fervor, for those who could not define hyperbole let alone spell it. I worry that seeds have been planted, that nagging suspicions will gestate into paranoia, that Junior's effeminate comment or laissez faire hand on hip will tip the scale and what was intended as exaggeration, overstatement, amplification will suddenly be thrust into bone-crushing action, causing nightmarish realities.

Which brings us to Amendment One, which perhaps unsurprisingly passed last Tuesday, not only banning same sex marriage, but civil unions and domestic partnerships as well. What's heartbreaking is that by my calculations only twenty-two percent of the state's population voted on the measure that inevitably denied rights. One of the commercials promoting Amendment One used the following jaw-dropping language... "The Marriage Amendment...protects marriage as the union of one man and one woman just as God designed it." As you take a moment to digest this bitter cocktail of church and state, allow me the following futuristic fantasy. A United States in which both parties have to stoke the God fire in order to win. In fact, at presidential debates, the candidates goal is to out-God each other. Freedom of religion is nonexistent. In fact, if Buddha, Vishnu, Yahweh, Allah or Jughead are mentioned or prayed to the punishment is grizzly, Christian, Inquisition-like torture. And the strongest of those who survive will be placed in a televised competition where they'll hunt each other down until only the strongest of them survives...oh, wait, that's The Hunger Games. Let's be honest, there's nothing in the Bible against homomony. Were North Carolina Republicans honest, the wording of their commercial should have been, "The Marriage Amendment...protects marriage as the union of one man and one woman because, let's face it, homosexuals freak us the fuck out."


Then, as if to counter the results of North Carolina's election and question heavily the over usage of the phase "traditional marriage," prominent historian and Yale professor John Boswell, who died in 1994, started haunting the blogosphere. Boswell was a firebrand who won the National Book Award in 1981 for his book, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality. (For the title alone I'd give him an award...and a sloppy, wet kiss.) But it was his The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe (1994) that discussed the acceptance of various homosexual marriages throughout European history. The above image, according to Boswell, is of the marriage of Saints Sergius and Bacchus. And who is the guy in the middle standing in as pronubus or best man? That's right, it's the big cheese, Jesu Christo himself, officiating over the ceremony. Boswell claims to have discovered Christian liturgical documents entitled the "Office of Same-Sex Union" and "Order for Uniting Two Men," making Sergius and Bacchus's marriage as "traditional" as any other...except this bride and groom both had penises.

And all this before President Barack Hussein Obama sat down with Robin Roberts and put to bed (sorry for that choice) any questions any of us had about his personal feelings towards gay marriage. It was an acceptance...no, that doesn't quite define what I felt. Hmmmmmmmm. You know when your badass coach gives you a thumbs up for a well swum race? Or when your hard-as-nails teacher returns a test emblazoned with an A++ ? Or when the sexy stranger at the other side of the bar smiles a devious smile and buys your drink with no strings attached? Well, what I felt was more validating than the three of those combined.

Risking possible political suicide, our president spoke his truth. And I have to believe that because it seems that this action could cause more alienation than political gain.

There will be truckloads of fallout from this interview. But I encourage us all to sift through the chaff (Bristol Palin, go home!) and move forward positively.

The President has spoken.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Happy Steel Anniversary

Eleven years ago today I married my husband. It wasn't a legal marriage, in the sense that it was not recognized by the government. However, we did get married in a church, and I defy anyone to tell me our wedding wasn't recognized by a much higher power.

But this isn't about getting on my political high horse. This is about love, and a wonderful man, and a beautiful day eleven years ago...


What a day. I think of all the planning that went into it. Typical list: the church, the reception, the dinner, the invitations, the flowers (blue hydrangeas), the photographer (Tracey Landworth she's brilliant, check out her link), the wardrobe, the band (Eddie Watkins Jr & The Go Big Daddy Band, also stupendous), the seating arrangements, the cake, the open bar, the 150 guests, and our biggest splurge, the white chocolate place cards.


Our families arrived before the ceremony to take pictures. This one is just brimming with racial harmony!


Here's my baby and I after we tied the knot. It was the most fun I'd ever had. It was Mari, our very good friend who passed away this last October, who suggested we both walk down the aisle to Tuck and Patti's Takes My Breath Away (if I knew how, I'd have it piping in as you read this). We crafted what the ceremony would be, we wrote our own vows, and there was a built in audience who had to listen to every word. What more could two actors hope for.


For our seeming unconventionality, the event had its recognizable elements: saying I do, the first dance (Dinah Washington's What a Difference a Day Makes), bride drunk off her ass and tripping down the stairs. Slice of cake anyone?


Tracey incorporated a photo booth at the reception. It was a blast, and as you can see, it got pretty trashed by the end of the evening.

I love looking back on that day. I love the wonderful friends and family who shared it with us. And I love the man who chose Cinco de Mayo as our anniversary.

Happy Steel Anniversary Darling.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Arts-in-Education; a Love Letter

Dear Jacqueline,

Firstly, let me apologize upfront for a few things: the public manner in which I'm sending this, for any unnecessary exposition which will allow my readers to follow more closely, and also for my tardiness, but if you read my previous entry, you'll understand that illness has made me its bitch and almost three weeks later I'm still reeling from side effects. (My ear is still ringing!)

To the thick of it then... Thank you so much for what you have given Sebastian, and in turn my family. Your talents at directing are immeasurable, and I don't use that word lightly. Working was an absolute hit, and to see all those children up on stage, not only giving it their all, but also showing various levels of stage proficiency was mind blowing performance after performance.

As you know, Sebastian bucked a bit at the thought of going to so many rehearsals. He'd get on the bus and come home rather than stay at school where you were weaving your magic. And when, at two weeks out, you told me Sebastian still didn't know his stuff, I wondered if my little one would ever take ownership of his songs, his choreography, his blocking and intentions, or if he'd aimlessly meander on stage with his mouth agape.

But the week of the performance, Sebastian's behavior towards the show changed. Once the set was built, the lights hung, the orchestra was in place, and the costumes and props filled those many racks, Sebastian's enthusiasm became evident. I noticed a little smile played upon on his lips from time to time, as if he were privy to state secrets that he could barely contain. He'd say cryptic things like, "Wait until you see Brother Trucker," and then mysteriously slink away. The bug bit him big time and I could tell he was finally owning it.

There was also a palpable change in how he carried himself. His back became straighter. His sentences held more command. His homework ethic had gained focus. And he began to follow through and do the small things when first asked: make his bed, feed the dogs. I was amazed.

Now, I've been a stage actor and an arts-in-ed instructor for most of my life. You'd think I wouldn't be bamboozled by theater's positive byproducts. But shame on me, I was wary to attribute Sebastian's behaviors to simply being in "the school musical." As much as I tried to poo poo what was right in front of me, however, I finally had to reexamine what I've known for so many years, that the discipline, the sense of community, and the artistic integrity that theater builds is undeniable.

And let's talk about community... Your ability to take students of various ages, from elementary to high school, and make a cohesive whole was amazing. I believe being around older kids, watching them work and interrelate, has not only given Sebastian school cred, but also interpersonal and language skills he previously did not have.

And don't get me started on the show itself. As I'm sure you've heard from others, Working seemed to be such a strange show for kids. And then when I heard the difficult music, I'll be honest Jacqueline, I questioned your sanity. I mean, Grease!, sure. Bye, Bye Birdie, why not? Godspell, Annie, Little Shop of Horrors, go to it. But Studs Terkel's Working?

But from the opening song, Wow!!, to the curtain call, I could tell you know your shit, girl. I have never seen my son so laser focused. Walking to his mark, freezing in his baseball stance waiting for his musical cue, and then hitting those mime baseballs out of the park again and again...I'll say it again, Wow!!

You have to realize, Michael and I put Sebastian on medication at the beginning of the school year to help him focus. And because of disastrous results, in March, we took him off all meds, right about the time he was in the thick of rehearsals, so to see him so engaged and committed seemed a minor miracle.

Sebastian still sings snippets from the show, sometimes he makes up his own stuff, and what knocks my socks off is that he seems to be enjoying life just a little bit more.

Thank you for that, Jacqueline.

I asked Sebastian if he wanted to be in the show next year and he smiled (more state secrets) and said, "I'm not sure." But there's no mistaking the twinkle in his eye. So, if he does the show next year, and the school is lucky enough to maintain your services, I cannot wait for the end results.

Your lifelong fan,
Hutch