Best Friends are Best Friends

A few days ago, my best (and oldest) friend celebrated her 27th birthday. Since I’m here in Baltimore and she lives in Baltimore, I decided to attempt to get in touch with her; our busy schedules have kept us from seeing each other for probably two years or so. I always wonder if I should call her my best friend, since she was for most of my childhood and is an all-around awesome person even though we do not get to communicate very much, or merely my oldest friend, since we met in kindergarten in 1990. It was hard to get ahold of her, but once I did, she took time out of her busy life as a librarian (at a public library, and on the day after Thanksgiving, no less), so I guess that still makes her best friend material. As usual, we go to Jasmine, in the Quarry, walking distance from my house and between her parents’ place and the library.

I like everything about her, but what I like the best is her consistency. Even after all these years, she has not changed. Her hairstyle, her clothing choices, her sense of fashion, and the fact that she’s always cold. She surprised me today, though, when she deviated from her normal Philly roll and tried the Alaska roll along with it. I hope that’s the most she changes, because she’s just awesome the way she is.

Here’s a very brief rundown of all the awesome moments of our friendship. It began at age 4 when we instantly bonded over being the only two in our kindergarten class who could read. We ended up outsmarting the teachers and cheating on our worksheets by reading the answers that were printed upside down on the bottom of the page; I guess we thought they put them there to help us out. Whoops. After kindergarten, we went our separate ways, as her parents sent her to a private girls’ school, but we still managed to get together periodically on weekends for play dates, and always went to each others’ birthday parties. I would use my dad’s office fax machine to fax her hand written notes, which we thought was SO AWESOME, which it was for kids of the 90s. As teenagers, we would send each other IMs periodically. For some reason, however, we did not attend each other’s bar/bat mitzvahs – I don’t remember it being so much of an animosity thing as it was a mutual agreement since we would not know anyone else at the other’s party (on her RSVP card, she wrote “Let’s celebrate together another time!” and we probably did).  High school was busier for us, but she managed to surprise me by showing up at my school to watch me in Hello, Dolly! in senior year. I  always sent her a postcard from my vacations, and I still have the ones she sent me from Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, and Israel. In college, we sent each other birthday cards, which was always easier for me than it was for her since my address changed every year and hers was always either at her school or her parents’ house. In my junior year, she accompanied me to the closing performance of my play that was produced in Baltimore, and to the cast party afterwards, where one of the other playwrights was her seventh-grade science teacher, which was kind of cool but a little awkward. And during my senior year, she flew up to Amherst for a weekend of fun where we road-tripped through Vermont and saw Mountpelier (“the city I want to retire in” she said), the Ben & Jerry’s factory, Vermont Teddy Bear, and a used bookstore safari tour of Brattleboro, which remains one of my favorite towns anywhere. We have so many private jokes; Aladdin colorforms, Weekly Readers, “do you need a razor?”, Grandma Lois, how she will one day become a coffee drinker but not today, that picture of us from kindergarten where I look terrified and she’s just blabbing away in her favorite blue sweater, two minutes at Goucher, the creepy photograph doll, watching my first episode of Friends with her, the garage door opener story (or how her parents tricked her a lot as a child),  and as of today, real life math and Timonium chopsticks.

Wow, those were a lot of highlights.

I don’t know if she’ll ever read this, but if she does, I salute you, Flamingo Kid. We’ve muddled through 23 years together, which is longer than I have known most people. Thanks for always being the wonderful you that you are, and I hope that you and me will always be best friends. I don’t really know why we’re still close to each other even after spending most of our lives on different wavelengths, but sometimes friendship doesn’t need an explanation. It just is, and best friend-ship is even better.

And that’s the story of me and my best friend.

 

Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving has been the first in a very long time that I have been with family, and by family I mean extended family. Technically, I was there last year, but only for about 15 minutes between the airport and the beach, and there weren’t nearly as many people there. This time, however, there were a record-breaking 26 people, some of whom I hadn’t seen since they were born, and some of whom hadn’t even been born the last time I’d seen their parents. It’s always a fun family time when you have to ask what certain children’s names are, who are their parents, if they’re still married, and if they’re both here.

Probably the weirdest part of it was seeing the younger cousins that I do know, all grown up. I’ve seen them each in person probably more than a few times since I left home, but over a period of about ten years. I remember them all being born, and I can picture them as little people, and now they’re all real people, all but one with drivers’ licenses and Facebook accounts.

And on top of it all, I have no idea what anyone is talking about anymore. I’m familiar with the language being used around the table, but if I want to get into a conversation I have to ask for context and characters. This requires effort, and as we all know, Thanksgiving is the holiday where effort translates to getting the turkey into the face, repeat ad infinitum, and anything more than that is overdoing it. Wow, that sounded so lazy.

After the meal, though, we all settled into the living to bond over Sharknado 2.

Nothing says Thanksgiving like a one-armed Tara Reid, I guess.

10 Things I Learned from ASTR 2014

10. Large backpacks and crowded reception halls do not mix.

9. I could totally open a business giving people third-floor skyline tours of the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Also, I have mastered the Disney Point.

8. When people start falling asleep at your presentation, spice it up by doing the robot.

7. Delicious cannolis make everything less awkward.

6. Don’t buy the books in the exhibition hall before they’re 30% off 10% off giving them away for free.

5. Even people with advanced degrees bond over the juicy details of first kisses and conference hookups.

4. There is nothing more awkward than watching your colleagues drink another’s breast milk. With cookies.

3. Fancy, expensive plaques make lousy banquet napkins.

2. Lampposts most certainly can perform.

1. One thing that makes every paper better? Serving your audience wine.

What a long, strange weekend it’s been. 4 days of ASTR followed by a day of going back and forth to visit my sister and her kindergarten class in Rockville. Right now, I’m sitting in my parents’ basement here in Baltimore, and one week from today, I’ll be back in Madison, bracing myself for the cold, the snow, and the end-of-semester projects.

The best thing about writing the above list? It made me realize that I learned more at ASTR than I thought I would, and than I thought I did.

 

The ASTRonaut Has Landed

Welcome to Baltimore!

That’s what I’ve been saying to people all day.

Yesterday, I flew home, saw my parents for a minute, then headed downtown where I’m attending my first ASTR (American Society for Theatre Research) conference. Which just happens to be here. The conference goes until Sunday, and then instead of flying back to Madison I’ll be staying on here for another week to do Thanksgiving with the family.

ASTR has a very different feel than ATHE so far. Same people, for the most part, plenty of familiar faces, but I don’t really have a “crowd” yet; I guess it comes with being a newbie. But so far it’s been pretty exciting.

The opening session was a plenary with four fantastic presenters from all over the world. I sat and listened near the front with two other conference newbies from London who are in Baltimore for the first time, and we commiserated between speakers.

I learned a lot from each speaker, but the one that affected me the most was a woman from Dartmouth called Maral. At the start of her presentation, someone wheeled on a coat rack with three orange and black costume pieces hanging from it. Before she took the podium, she did a short dance clad all in black.

Her topic?

“Politics of National Dance Dress in 21st Century Jordan.”

Even with no prior knowledge on the subject, her presentation style was unreal. She set the scene at a state event involving a traditional dance performance, and described how the costume designer imagined the dress that was to be worn by the dancers. Only it ended up sounding like two different outfits: one more conservative and one more “European” and “orientalistic” with a slit and long, open sleeves. She spoke about how the concept of “national dress,” though stemming from the traditional abaya, is a fluid concept of Jordan. She talked about it in terms of “temporal continuity of monarchy,” showing the “collective victory of Hussein” down to today, and the connections between costume and economic stability. The dress performed as an embodied entity, to create image, identity, and marketability. The silk and chiffon fabrics and orange coloring echoed the “mystical desert sands” of an Orientalized idea of “Arabia,” and how the ballet slippers that the costume designer insisted the dancers wear on their feet “because bare feet are so primitive and passe” interrupted the Orientalism to endow the outfit to a wider audience, a “globalization on their feet.” Donning the dress, she then repeated the dance, and then speaking about the dress as an “invented subject,” she did the dance a third time, now with interpretation a la “open up, attitude, Martha Graham Martha Graham (that got a giggle from the audience)” and talked about the form and flow.

Overall, her point was that the dress performs subjectivity, between tradition and modernity, in the neoliberal regime. She then returned to her original outfit and gave sort of a reflective summary of her work, which was kind of unnecessary since we just heard it but I guess it communicated her methodology more clearly in case anyone was curious.

I really liked her presentation style, on the whole; the dance and the costume added some jazz to what could have been a boring topic.

Now that I’m really excited about semiotics and phenomenology and performativity and pedagogy, time for bed, of course, to dream about all those things.

Paging American Mayors

Today, the news story that broke my Facebook news feed and the Internet worldwide (my apologies to Kim Kardashian) was what happened in Israel. When Israel hits the headlines, there’s a 75% chance that it’s bad news, and the newest incident/terrorist attack/”terrorist attack”/whatever CNN wants to call it felt particularly close to home.

Among the four dead, three were American citizens.

Here’s the rundown: Two Israeli Palestinian brothers storm into a synagogue in Har Nof, a very religious neighborhood in Jerusalem which has not been the scene of many acts of violence, armed with a gun, an axe, and a meat cleaver. Shouting “Allah’u akbar,” they attacked the men who were praying there. Nine were wounded, and four died: Moshe Twersky, a prominent rabbi from Boston; Rabbi Arieh Kupinsky, a Detroit native;  Cary William “Kalman” Levine, from Kansas City; and Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, originally from London and holding dual Israeli/UK citizenship. All were married and in their 50s/60s. Between them, they were fathers to 17 children and even more grandchildren. In addition, a Druze policeman who came to the rescue was shot in the crossfire, and died a short while after.

Boston.

Detroit.

Kansas City.

My first instinct was to go to the websites of each city’s largest newspaper and see what they had to say about their lost denizens. I found the Boston Globe, the Detroit Free Press, and the Kansas City Star. Surely they had family, friends, and community leaders who were devastated.

In these articles, however, I noticed a trend.

Here is a list of everyone who was quoted in the articles:

President Barack Obama. Richard M. Joel (Yeshiva University). Eric Nelson (Maimonides School). Yehuda Yaakov (Israeli Consul, Boston). Michael Zwick (friend of Kupinsky). Jordana Wolfson (Akiba Hebrew Day School). Beverly Phillips (Jewish Community Relations Council of Metro Detroit). Rabbi Michael Cohen (Young Israel of Oak Park). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Secretary of State John Kerry. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Yosef Posternak (Witness). Yohanan Danino (Israeli Chief of Police). Alan Edelman (Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City). Jonathan Bein (Brother-in-law of Kalman Levine). Shimon Kraft (Childhood friend of Kalman Levine).

Who is missing?

Let’s see…the mayors of the cities of Boston, Detroit, and KCMO. State governors. Representatives. Congressman. Senators. Anyone from the United States of America who is not either in the federal government or a representative from the Jewish community. Where are they, and why haven’t they said anything? After all, these were their constituents, their taxpayers, and first and foremost, residents and natives of their hometowns. And they were brutally murdered in a terrorist attack, while praying in a house of worship in a foreign country. Remember Natalee Holloway, the Alabama girl who never returned from her trip to the Caribbean? Her state governor Bob Riley wagged his finger at the entire island of Aruba and issued a travel boycott. What about you, Governor of Michigan?

I considered the chance that maybe the reporters and news wires had missed the cities’ mayors in their rush to get the word out, so I decided to go to each mayor’s personal website and see if he put up something, a statement or a picture or anything, about what happened to a resident from his city. In the Press Room section of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s website, an article about the arts in Boston from a few days ago. Sly James, from Kansas City? Wrote about Summer Youth Employment yesterday. And today’s news from Mark Duggan in Detroit? Auto insurance.

Now, I’m not implying that employing our youth and insuring our automobiles is unimportant, but people in these cities may not be aware of the fact that someone who once lived in their ZIP code was murdered today. And those who do get word of it could wonder: what does this mean if I go to Israel, or anywhere abroad; would I be safe, and if not, would any public official who I might have campaigned for or voted for or shaken hands with give a darn? And would they make it public? How public? Would there be a memorial day for me in my hometown? Would my parents, siblings, children receive any sort of encouraging message from those who claim to have their jobs at the hands of “the people,” act for “the people,” and represent “the people” of their city to the United States and to the world?

It’s only been two days, but even in just two days all of the people listed above came out of the woodwork and said something. Elected officials, where have you been? If something like this happened in your city, by now you would have addressed the public, called an investigation, and offered public/private sympathies to the family. And one of the victims was the son of an actual person, with a Wikipedia entry, and everyone knows that if it’s on Wikipedia, that shit’s legit, # sarcasmbutyeahitskindatrue.

Most likely, no mayors, governors, senators or city councilmen will happen to bounce on over here and read this, and because I have a paper to finish, a suitcase to pack and some pizza that’s calling my name, I can’t contact every single one of them. But if I could page these three mayors, I’d tell them the truth and if they didn’t believe me, I’d give them the names of the families.

And if they happen to be reading this, then, welcome, and please don’t sue me :) I am nicer than this normally, I promise.

***

Works Cited

Adler, Eric. “Two rabbis killed in Jerusalem attack have Kansas City ties.” Local. Kansas City Star. 18 November 2014.

Rosen, Andy, John R. Ellement and Peter Schworm. “One of four men murdered in Israel has ties to Boston area.” Metro. The Boston Globe. 18 November 2014.

Warikoo, Niraj, Zlati Meyer and Tia Goldenberg. “Rabbi killed in Jerusalem attack grew up in Oak Park.”

Masterpiece YouTube: Annie Lennox, “Walking on Broken Glass”

Ever since I posted about broken glass yesterday, this song has been playing in my head, for two obvious reasons. One, because it’s a good song, and two, because it was the first music video that I watched over and over and over again and sometimes they pull it off YouTube which can be sad. So, I present to you one of my favorite music videos of all time.

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 14: Annie Lennox, “Walking on Broken Glass,”

The video starts innocently enough, with a few twinkly piano notes over some tableaux appearing to be from the Mozart/Marie Antoinette era…but then the violins pick up, and the stillness is broken by the waving of a fan.

A FAN, PEOPLE.

Clearly, Ms. Lennox means business.

As she sings, the video shows a foppish gent dancing with several ladies at a proper, pastel-colored ball, with periodic cuts to Annie Lennox looking cross between Maleficent and a sexy nun. The fop in the middle is clearly the one she’s got the hots for, but that bitch in white keeps lady-cockblocking her. Finally, she gets him aside, only to lose him again and stomp her dress in frustration and in time to the music.

Then all hell breaks loose.

In she strides, hands on her widely-farthingaled hips. With confidence, conviction, and just a bit of condescension, she pushes the others aside to get to her man. The light makes her all crazy-eyed as she attempts to drag the man in white away, and it’s all an embarrassing but terribly exciting fuss as she gets cruelly ripped away from her young lover. But this is Annie Lennox we’re talking about, who takes nothing sitting down, and she proves it by crawling on all fours to get what she wants, before ultimately failing again and leaving with contempt. She trots down some awesome spiral stairs and ends up…in the arms of her young lover. So it was not in vain after all.

This video is a masterpiece really empowers me to be as bad-ass as I can be, and to do it with conviction. If it worked for Annie Lennox, it can work for you too. Plus, it’s delightfully innocuous to look at, with a fun storyline that gets more fun as with each successive viewing you can pick a different side and watch the events unfold from the perspective of a different character. CHOICES. It just gives me all the feels, but mostly the feel to use long words and adverbs.

Plus, period costume!

This episode of Masterpiece YouTube has been brought to you by actual broken glass.

On Breaking Glass

Last night, the fire alarm went off, and since it was two in the morning and there was no way I was going out in the SNOW (yes, it’s snowing here), I took that as time to wash the giant pile of dishes that has been piling up in the sink. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I had two wine glasses sitting behind the sink, and as I took a clean bowl out of the dishwasher, I knocked one into the sink.

It shattered.

Now I only have nine wine glasses. Wine glasses that came from my grandmother, that survived the moves from Baltimore to Houston to Madison to Madison again, plus countless people (okay, maybe like fifty) who have used them since they have been in my possession.

And just like that, one tipped over and broke, right into the sink, where it was easy to fish out the pieces with a cloth and throw them into the garbage like last week’s beer bottle.

It’s just a glass, and it’s not even that special; my grandmother probably got them at a department store or something. I could probably even find the same pattern online if I tried hard enough. It was just the shattering of the glass that made my heart judder, just a little bit. I’ve been a bit edgy lately, nervous, anxious, ready to go home but not ready for all the work I have to do before then, worried about friends and family, feeling somewhat lonely, and lazy because I’ve only danced twice this week and haven’t been to the gym at all. I’m just living my life.

Oh well, at least I got to do my Florida Evans impression to myself in my apartment.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 505 other followers