0

Oh, The Life of A Working Man in Israel

When I was in Israel, I had a job. Okay, technically it was an internship, but I did a heck of a lot more than just an intern including running the place for a whole month while the boss was doing army reserve duty. Some days I liked it, some days I didn’t, but every Sunday through Friday, I was at that theater, working away. In Israel, Friday and Saturday are their weekends which makes more sense if you ask me, but it also makes Tuesday Hump Day, which is confusing, and sometimes I’d forget and go to work on Friday and be confused when I’d be sitting at my desk for hours without seeing anyone else.

Around December, I got my first visitors from overseas. My parents and sister came over, and just as they were leaving, my friend Dan arrived on a Birthright trip from Boston. We met in Machane Yehuda and it was magic – four of my favorite people standing with me in a busy marketplace. I met Dan’s Birthright friends, and as it was a Friday, Dan and I planned to get together after Shabbat.

The next night, I take a bus over to the hotel where his group was staying (the Jerusalem Gate Hotel, which is at the complete opposite end of the city from where I lived :-/) Since his group was all at the upper echelon of Birthright-age-people (25-26 year olds), they had a “curfew” set by Birthright, but all that really meant was that they had to sign a check-in sheet at the hotel at 10 PM, and then do whatever the hell they wanted since they were legal in both Israel and America. So, Dan and everyone want to go to a club. I’m not a huge club-goer, but there is one club that I do know: Tza’atzua, which is near Ben Yehuda Street. It’s too far to walk, and nobody but me has a bus pass, so we flag down a cab and I tell the driver where we’re going, what neighborhood it’s in, to call and order 4 more cabs, and negotiate a price (all of which I did in Hebrew!). He happily called his friends, who showed up quicker than ambulances in many parts of the world, and we had a little cab caravan down the road, with me, Dan, and another guy in the front.

We get to the club, and get in line to get our IDs checked to get into the club. Somehow, Dan and I end up at the back of the line, which is rapidly expanding behind us. All of Dan’s friends get in, and then it’s me and Dan. Dan’s ID gets checked, and he’s in. My ID gets checked and “sorry, you can’t go in.”

Huh?

In Israel, you can drink at age 18 (or 19, I can never remember), and most clubs are pretty lax anyway. I mean, people smoke in clubs, even though it’s not only frowned upon but actually illegal there. I tell them that there must be some mistake, I’m definitely of age.

Then they tell me, “Yes, but tonight we are having a 25-and-up night.”

Fuck. I’m screwed. I’m 22. And I just sent fifteen people into a nightclub in a city they’ve never been in that speaks a language that they don’t know. And Dan is standing there, like “I guess this is it for you then.”

So, what do I do?

Well, I really don’t want to go the club anyway…I just don’t want to abandon these people, and it’s late and I’m tired and I kinda want to go home because I have work and stuff to do tomorrow, and I’m sad, and frustrated, and a little bit angry.

I want to vocalize this and appeal to the bouncers.

So I do.

And it comes out of my mouth like this:

“…באסה. תראה, אני יודע שאני רק בן עשרים ושתיים ואני מאמריקה, אבל הם החברים שלי, ואני נשאר רק, כאילו, עשר דקות, כי אני צריך ללכת לעבודה בבוקר”

Translated:

“Oh fuck. Look, I know I’m only twenty-two and I’m from America, but they’re my friends, and I’m only gonna stay for, like, ten minutes, because I have to go to work in the morning…”

The reason I put the ellipses there?

Once they heard me launch into Hebrew and mention the fact that I’m working in the morning, I get cut off, with…”b’seder (okay),  go on in.”

I totally wasn’t expecting that, but hey, it worked. I guess Israel’s got some respect for its hard-working men, or barely-twenty-two-year-old-theatre-intern-type-people. But I don’t leave myself too much time to contemplate as I basically push Dan down the stairs and into the club, afraid that the intimidating guys at the entrance will suddenly change their minds. So we all made it in, an a big cheer came from the group when we entered. We all danced for a while – well, they did, I guess, I left pretty after maybe a half hour at most, making sure that between them they a) knew where they were going back to, and b) had enough cash to cover it.

I leave the club, nod at the bouncers, and guess who’s still there?

The cab guy, who’s just chilling out in the front seat of his cab, waiting for someone to drunkenly stumble out of the club so he can make some money. We notice each other as I pass, he thanks me for getting him some business, and asks me where I’m going. I tell him that I’m walking back to my place in Talpiot, I have to get to work in the morning.

“Get in, I’ll take you home. No charge.”

And that’s how I got a free cab ride home at the middle of the night in Jerusalem.

0

Limited Brain Capacity

I think I’ve uncovered the secret to how I’m surviving these days.

Or at least an excuse for forgetting/slacking on things.

I’m going with…Limited Brain Capacity.

Someone, somewhere, said that we only use about ten percent of our brains on a daily basis. Someone somewhere else called that person a big fat liar. I say that they’re both wrong.

These days, my brain feels kind of like an iPhone. Once you have so many apps, photos, videos, songs, etc. on an iPhone, it gives you that “memory almost full, delete some stuff” message. For me, that’s how I’m getting by.

For instance, lines. Last week’s rehearsals were pretty disastrous and I totally blanked on lines, several times. So much so that I was given the option to do the whole show on book. The day of open dress (Wednesday) I took my car to get it fixed, and in the two hours I was given to wait for it, I basically blocked out everything from my mind – state capitals, shopping lists, possibly even the names and ages of all my cousins – and just focused on sweeping out those megabytes of info and sweeping in the lines. Effectively making me a line-bot, or in layman’s terms, an actor. By the time I got to rehearsal that night, I was feeling confident. I did a quick line-thru spit-back thing with Marc, and we managed to get almost all the way through the play with me messing up only a handful of times; and by messing up, I mean completely losing focus, not merely getting words transposed, which happens sometimes to the best of actors. Kat asked me how confident I felt in doing it off book, and I answered affirmatively, and that night I managed not to screw up too badly. Before the next night’s performance, I hadn’t had much time to look over the script, and at two points got completely stymied – not enough to slow down the whole show, but so much so that I needed some saving. Friday afternoon I had a bit of time to look over lines, and that night I believe I gave my best performance, only screwing up a line or two in scene three. There was also another factor that was keeping me on my toes, but that’s for a later post. Saturday night kind of got lazy, with one of my (very few) line flubs causing a whole page of scene one to be skipped, but other than that, a near-perfect acts two and three.

Since then, I’ve not thought much about my lines, but I’ve been extremely careful in managing where exactly my brain is, given that we’ve got a pick-up rehearsal scheduled for Wednesday and three more performances until we close on Saturday night. After that, I will be free to forget. But not until then.

Due to Thanksgiving travel and general play fatigue, I’ve been missing both of my regularly scheduled dance activities, kabuki and ballroom. Ballroom’s kind of a lost cause for me this semester – I’ve resigned to saving it for next semester – but kabuki, one of the things I thought I was doing pretty well in, has become a victim of my Limited Brain Capacity. Seeing as that I’m auditing the class, I can really pick and choose exactly what I want to do. I’ve chosen to do no written work at all, seeing as I don’t have the extremely hard-to-acquire out-of-print textbook, and only focus on studying the performance and improving my own. The final will consist of:

  1. Sword cadence
  2. Fan dance
  3. Bannai
  4. Combat sequence
  5. Monologue (Sukeroku or Agemaki)

The easiest thing for me to remember is Bannai, since it’s basically a short monologue with gestures. I was present in class for the majority of the sword fighting and fan dancing, so I’ve retained most of those. I did miss a few classes where some new moves were added. Today I did the fan dance and I was surprised at how much I had forgotten. Like, even some of the beginning moves, the easier ones, and the sword cadence as well. For the combat sequence, I learned everything up to the final two moves, but since there’s an odd number of students and I’m the only auditor, I’ve been sitting out. The professor, however, told me that if I want to try for the final, I’ve got my pick of partners. Depending on how many people want to go twice, I might be very popular. However, I haven’t practiced it for a while so my memories of the combat routine may have fallen out of my brain along with the rest of the fan dance. As far as the monologues – I’m not even going to try. Lines for the play plus Bannai plus…all the other academic and non-academic stuff I have to remember and use on a daily basis have pretty much caused me to defer any other new information up to the Cloud.

Speaking of academics…

I have finished all assignments for one of my classes, and have blocked it out of my mind completely. For American Drama, all I have left is a final exam, so other than leafing through the plays for the past few weeks, all knowledge from that course has been shifted to the Cloud as well. This leaves me with Cruelty, for which I have one paper due Thursday (which should be in my mind but is not as I have not yet started) and Restoration, for which I have turned in my first draft, so until I get it back tomorrow with comments, is out of my mind. Other things like laundry, eating, cleaning, bathing, reading for pleasure – these familiar fuzzy thoughts are re-materializing, if only for a short while before Cruelty-Restoration-my lines for the play come back to me from the Cloud.

If this isn’t making any sense to you anymore, that makes two of us.

Basically, my point here is that my brain can only take in so much new information at a time, especially info that must be memorized and performed. That’s one of the reasons I don’t miss acting – more on that later.

But in the long run…what does this mean for my brain? Is my ten percent drying up? Am I using more of my brain? Or are my brain cells just having a massive orgy and reproducing at lightning speed?

Because my brain is a curious creature, it went and Google Searched “limited brain capacity finals week.” The first hits were scholarly articles, which I would love to read but my brain does not want to. Next stop on the crazy brain train: Wikipedia. Looking for an simple yet concrete answer, I stumbled upon Baddeley’s model of working memory.

In short, these two guys Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch came up with a system of how our short-term memory works. This model, created in 1974 and amended in 2000, consists of three main areas of focus:

  1. The central executive is the portion of the short term memory that organizes all of the trains of thought; it’s literally the depot. It’s the center in the brain responsible for multi-tasking. Mine is working very hard at the moment, the “notes” function thinking about all the work I have to do and the fact that I have three washer loads that need to hit the dryer and that I need to put on pants and shoes before I can go to the laundry room to do that, as well as playing an mp3 in my brain for a soundtrack (currently, that fan dance song from kabuki class), the video/camera/photos/facetime registering all the colors and symbols on the computer screen, and somehow, through all this, my motor skills, enabling me to type at a relatively rapid speed to put words on the screen without constantly needing to look at my fingers for guidance. Effectively, we’re all multi-taskers by nature.
  2. The phonological loop takes in and interprets sounds and words, so that we may repeat them back. Right now there isn’t any background music or noise, so mine’s got a respite, but reciting lines over and over and hearing them cued to me every night acts sort of like a “voice control” function in the brain. At least that’s how I’m interpreting this concept at the moment.
  3. The visuospatial sketchpad allows us to navigate through our lives, literally. It’s why we don’t have to concentrate so hard on walking, because it can draw internal maps so that we can take advantage of the first two elements of the short-term memory while doing a task such as walking, and not running into walls or tripping and falling over. (sidenote – eight finger knuckle crunch at this moment – this must mean it’s getting serious). This allows me to navigate my apartment, the theatre building, and the stage. At the same time, it helps me go through my blocking, both for the play and for the kabuki dances. This area, my “maps” function, exerts itself pretty heavily these days, with a need for knowing floor patterns essential to my survival as an actor and a kabuki performer.

So what does all this mean?

Basically, I’m not a lunatic. I do have issues to figure out and I’m navigating them to the best of my ability, but as far as me putting things on shelves in my mind, it’s totally appropriate. Right now, my brain is working overtime, but relief will come soon, in the form of tasks and obligations being finished.

But I can’t think about that point in the future too much, lest I drop my internal iPhone in Olestra, causing a need to visit the always helpful-but-not-helpful Apple store and unexpected fluid leakage.

…well that got graphic very quickly.

Eew.

0

Thanksgivukkah

Tonight was the first night of Hanukkah, and also the night before Thanksgiving. Something that hasn’t happened since 1918 and won’t again until 2070.

It’s two holidays merged into one giant superholiday.

I love holidays, so this is great for me, but also signifies that my past two weeks of chaos are not quite over yet.

Today was kind of nice, in a weird way. I slept way later than I wanted, but finally got out of bed in the…early afternoon…to finish my proposal and send it off, followed by a shopping event to the post office, Tires Plus, Marshalls, World Market, and CVS. I emerged with an oil change, a gift for my sister, a coffee cup, a pair of boots, a mini-panettone (because it’s NOT Hanukkah without Italian Christmas cake, good golly gosh), a bottle of moscato (which I saved $2 on), posterboard, a box of cookies, toothbrushes, and contact solution. Then I went home and Kat came over to light candles, which was really very nice. I’m glad she could come over and I hope she had a good time.

Tomorrow morning, I will fly from Madison to Baltimore via Chicago, from whence I will go to my cousins’ place in Chevy Chase for a Thanksgivukkah hi-and-bye and then off to Ocean City for a few days, then BACK to Baltimore so we can go see a play at CENTERSTAGE (and hopefully stop off at BookThing!) before I come back to Madison on my newly changed flight so I can make it to rehearsal on time. Then, two rehearsals, invited dress, and then we open. Oh, and through it all, Hanukkah is happening, so there’s that, and I have 2 papers to write and a poster to create. And I have friends I want/need to call/text for Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Shabbat/both/none of the above.

I would normally say “game on,” but this feels different. I feel like I should have some sort of break from everything. Yes, I’ll be home, but I’ll also be dealing with the parents, memorizing lines, researching, and hopefully writing at least 23 pages of stuff.

And I still have to pack, do prelim. research, sweep, mop, and fold laundry (yeah right).

Crap.

So I’ll substitute “here goes nothing.”