Thursday, April 25, 2013

The choice is yours

This chalk drawing is on the ground in the Village and whenever I see it, it reminds me that happiness is a choice. That sounds sappy and simplistic, but sometimes that sappy simplistic crap is the truest truth.  Circumstances, Schmircumstances.  Your mindset is in your own control. 

that's me (in my weird Inspector Gadget coat) standing in the circle of happiness.  
...and it did feel good.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Guess who this is?.....  Hint, she's the only living Golden Girl left!
Ok, blame this one on my insomnia.  I've been watching a Golden Girls marathon since 2am (oh, cable tv, when will you stop being dominated by reruns and infomercials?!) and two things hit me:

1. Damn, these ladies were good!  Sit-com acting can get pretty cheesy, but these ladies did their sctick with easy rhythm and soul.  And their characters were dead on!  I remember hearing once that, originally, Rue McClanahan was actually slated to play the Rose Nylund, country bumpkin role and Betty White was to play the sex crazed Blanche Deveraux.  As much as we know them for the opposite characters, these actresses were so good that I know they'd've been equally brilliant in that original configuration. And I don't know what else Estelle Getty did as an actress, but she was a little phenom as Sophia.

2. Why don't we have more tv shows with seasoned actors?  Why is every show about teenagers and self-indulgent twenty-somethings?!  Showbiz vets just bring so much more to the table. I mean Bea Arthur could do more with a 3 second look than most actors can do with a 5 minute monologue. MASTER.

But I started this post with an old headshot of Betty White because - despite the fact that I think today's pop culture obsession with her has overtones of condescension towards the elderly - we should all be so lucky to have a life and love like hers.  

Oooh! Now, Boston Legal is on - I think I loved her most in that!  .....Ok, I have just blogged about the Golden Girls, I am definitely going a little cuckoo.  Sleep - must get sleeeeeeeeeep!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Party in a Purse! Booze in a bag done the right way

Photo of Vernissage Wine Purse c/o NPR

Um, how the hell did I miss this coming out last year and how can I GET ONE FOR EVERY ONE OF MY GIRLFRIENDS?!  Vernissage, a Swedish wine company has packaged a box wine in a sexy little tote that rivals the cutest designer purses out there.  This is the perfect accessory for my boozy picnics with friends and now that spring is here, 'tis the season... (i.e. park and music festival season)! The black bag holds a red wine blend, Syrah - Cabernet Sauvignon.  The white bag holds a white, Chardonnay.  And the pink holds a Rosé (yeah, that'll probably be my fave (I do love a good crisp Rosé...).  Now, please, please, please let the wine be good - the idea is too cute to be ruined by bad flavor!

And don't be snooty about boxed wine.  Screw tops and Rosés went from declassé to hot in just a few years.

So..... I'll be needing a bulk order, can I buy these by the crate?...  or are these refillable....   :-)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Free shoes for Actors! (and mama neeeeeeeeds a new pair of shoes)

the tattered shoes I wore to today's audition.  oy.

Walking home from an audition this morning, I realized that there was a hole in my shoe.  And reminded me of something I learned recently!  THERE'S A GRANT FOR ACTORS TO GET FREE SHOES FOR AUDITIONS.  Things like that give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about this crazy ass profession.  Almost 70 years ago, actor Conrad Cantzen recognized that for most of his colleagues, money was already spread so thinly that they didn't even think about the shoes they wore to auditions. A big mistake, in his eyes.  So he decided to help out his brethren by leaving his estate to donate money for the cause.  And the money is still available!  It's called the Conrad Cantzen Shoe Fund.

"In 1945, actor Conrad Cantzen bequeathed his estate to The Actors Fund with the stipulation that it should be used to help actors purchase shoes so they did not appear "down at the heels" when auditioning. Mr. Cantzen believed that a good pair of shoes made a great first impression on casting directors.
This Memorial Fund reimburses eligible performing arts and entertainment professionals up to $40.00 towards a pair of shoes costing no more than $100.00."
Actors:  All you need to do is submit an application, a receipt for shoes you purchased plus a copy of your union card and you'll get $40.  Get to it!  Of course, $40 ain't gonna buy your next Blahniks or Loubous, but it'll take a nice chunk out of the cost of character shoes for a dance/musical audition - and it'll certainly help you get a decent, flattering pair of pumps/flats that make your legs look "wow" (and whatever the male equivalent is....).  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cuba on the brain

Cuba November 2011, a set on Flickr.  click link to view more photos.
Sooooooooo, thanks to Jay-Z & Beyoncé's trip to Cuba last week, people are suddenly asking about my trip to Cuba. In November of 2011, I backpacked across the eastern part of the island hitting Havana, Santiago, Trinidad and Baracoa. It was was the trip of a lifetime! Cuba defies all American perceptions. It's a beautiful and SAFE island of highly educated people who are very open and aware of the rest of the world. I have to remind people of that sometimes because there's an assumption here it's a "third world country". Nonsense! The medical and education systems in Cuba are the highest rated in the Americas... But I digress. The point is it's a must-see place and should be on everyone's bucket list before US capitalism overruns it with Walmarts, McDonalds, Starbucks et al.

One thing I'd like to mention about that trip:  I always backpack alone and I've always been proud of that.  I think I meet more people that way and it eliminates the friction of having to argue with a travel partner about what to do when...  If, for example, I want to spend the day at the beach and skip all cultural activities, it's cool.  I never felt lonely.  But this was the first time that I wished someone'd been there with me the whole way.  Don't get me wrong, I had a GREAT time, but for the first time ever I kinda yearned to share that extraordinary journey with someone.  I learned that even a loner like me, needs a companion...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

taking down the fortress.

I think my biggest, most constant struggle in life has been to be authentic.  Like all of us, I've gone through some shit against which I had to build up a protective armor.  In my case, though, that protective armor took over to the point that I felt like I was always in "fortress" mode and never just being myself. You know all the reasons behind that because we all think them:
- I'm not good (thin, smart, rich, popular, ambitious, skilled....) enough
- I'll be rejected
- I won't belong
- I'll fail
- yadda
- yadda
- yadda....

The bottom line was fear (sheer terror, actually) of being vulnerable.  That kept me disconnected from everyone and everything. Seriously, I mean, TOTALLY unable to be emotionally intimate with ANYONE - romantically or platonically.  From the outside, everything looked fine, you'd see me as fun and entertaining; you wouldn't notice a thing...but if you thought about it hard, you'd realize that you never felt totally connected to me - that something was slightly off or cold or distant about me underneath all the giggling and bravado.  From the inside, it felt like being stuck on auto-pilot and not being able to change the setting.  I felt stiff and weak and terrified all the time.  And it completely stalled my acting (one of the few activities that actually empowers me!) because it's impossible to act well without being vulnerable.  So for the last year, I've been working on opening up and being ok with my vulnerability rather than ashamed.  It's scary as all hell.  And I still stink at it most of the time.  But I, slowly but surely, AM getting closer to living with my whole heart.  And the beautiful irony is that I feel less pain now that I'm more open than when I was closed off "protecting" myself from getting hurt.  (Hmm, it's kinda like getting a bikini wax: clench and it hurts longer, relax and the torture ends quickly.)

Today, I was introduced to Brené Brown's works on Vulnerability and Shame.  Right on time!

p.s.  at 16:42, she gives some insight into shame for men - very worth noting!

And Downtown Romantic sums up one of Brown's books best:

10 Guideposts for Whole-Hearted Living 
1. Cultivate Authenticity: Let go of what people think
2. Cultivate Self-compassion: Let go of perfection
3. Cultivate a Resilient Spirit: Let of of numbing (aka food, wine, Xanax) and powerlessness
4. Cultivate Gratitude and Joy: Let go of scarcity
5. Cultivate Intuition and Trusting Faith: Let go of the need for certainty
6. Cultivate Creativity: Let go of comparison
7. Cultivate Play and Rest: Let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
8. Cultivate Calm and Stillness: Let go of anxiety as a life-style
9. Cultivate Meaningful Work: Let go of self-doubt and "supposed to"
10. Cultivate Laughter, Song and Dance: Let go of being cool and always in control

Friday, April 5, 2013

Home is where the heart is...but where's your heart?

Two years ago, I spent a month traveling through western Europe visiting old friends.  The purpose of the trip was to re-establish myself in - and, perhaps, move back to - the city that I considered to be my home town, Berlin, the place where I'd grown up, the place of all of my adolescent memories, the place of so many of my firsts (first kiss, first boyfriend, first job, ....).  The bitter irony of that homecoming was, however, that I didn't feel at home there.  Berlin was strange (and even slightly hostile) to me and I was a stranger, not a local girl coming home.  I don't look "German" and while I'm fluent (and near accent free) in the language, my confidence was shot and I stumbled when communicating.  Add to that my unfamiliarity with the new layout of the city and it makes sense that I wasn't accepted as a "native".  Fair enough.  But that left me confused and lost, identity-wise.  So I left and went off to visit friends in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Munich, and Barcelona all the while wondering what it meant not to have a home town, not to have a place where I felt, looked and sounded like a local.  (As much as I love NYC, not a week goes by that I'm not asked where I'm from because, somehow, I don't seem American to people.  Hell, three years into a past relationship, my then boyfriend asked about my immigration status! I have American citizenship, speak fluently with no accent, live the culture completely, yet still someone that close to me thought I was a foreigner!)  Citizen of the world?  Ok, but everyone wants one place where they blend in - at least, I do! A place where people can pronounce my name.  A place where I'm not treated differently.  A place where my "story" doesn't have to be explained.

On the way to Barcelona, I had a day-long layover in Paris.  Because money was tight (strong Euro, weak Dollar - ugh!) and I felt like I'd already seen Paris (I lived there in college), I wasn't interested in exploring the city.  I planned to wile away the hours reading while waiting for the night train to Barcelona.  But a strange thing happened.  From the second my foot touched the ground in Paris, I felt a sensation I'd expected to feel in Berlin.  HOME.  And all day long, I was mistaken for a Parisian.  My rusty french was gone and in its place was a fluid, confident speech pattern.  I was completely at ease; just being there felt so natural.  But it didn't make sense.  I dismissed the whole thing as an aberration and went on to Barcelona without giving it a second thought.  A week later, back in Paris for a similar layover, though, the same thing happened.  Paris felt like home and accepted me with a familiarity that no other city had.  You'd think that would be welcome news, but it wasn't.  Paris?! Hell no.  First of all, it's too damned expensive!  One of the beautiful things about Berlin is that it's still an affordable place to live.  Rebuilding a life there would be easy on my wallet.  Life in Paris is nearly as pricey as life in NYC - exactly what I was trying to escape!  Secondly, what a cliche!  Yuck.  I did NOT want to be another one of those naive people blinded by the romantic of the idea of Paris.  Lastly, I was still hurt by the Berlin thing...  I got the hell out of Paris that night, returned to Berlin and tried again - but the result was the same, Berlin was not my home.  So it was back to NYC for me.  And I tried to forget Paris.

Fast forward two years...  Extraordinary circumstances have put me in a position to move to Paris this summer.  And this time around, I'm not resisting.  I would NEVER have expected my life would take this turn, but I'm grateful.  Of course, home is wherever you make it, but it's always nice to feel the energy of the place welcoming you back.  I'm going home.  Come June, I'll blog more about the details, but for now, I just wanted to share this little bit of the story...

South Africa Redux

I realize that I never summed up my 2 weeks in South Africa.  I was preparing a dissertation-like analysis, but I'm scratching all that.  Let my little 12-day travel diary stand on its own.  There was good and there was bad, I was inspired and I was disappointed.  I gave my best and I slacked off.  And OVERWHELMINGLY, that country won me over.  Suffice it to say, I'll be going back.

colorful beach cabins at Muizenberg near Cape Town

South Africa Diary Day 1
South Africa Diary Day 2
South Africa Diary Day 3
South Africa Diary Day 4
South Africa Diary Day 5
South Africa Diary Day 6
South Africa Diary Day 7
South Africa Diary Day 8
South Africa Diary Day 9
South Africa Diary Day 10
South Africa Diary Day 11
South Africa Diary Day 12
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