Memoirs of a Nobody

The somewhat secret adventures of Jill Writer.

Notes 0


22 December 2010

“‘Cause we need a little Christmas, right this very minute…”

Okay, I’m a bad blogger.  I admit it.  You shouldn’t be surprised at this news.  I think I was pretty clear from the get-go that I’ve had some blogging issues in the past, trying to manage my identity and whatnot.  I find I constantly have things I want to say, but I fear saying them in a public venue because, well… these things have a way of coming back and biting me.

Of course, that’s not what THIS blog was supposed to be about, so maybe I’ll just shut up and post a little writing tidbit. 

This is a little Christmas “beginning” I wrote a couple years ago… where will it go if I find the time to get back to it?  I don’t know.  I do love a good Christmas story, though.  Last year I extended my holiday season by buying up Debbie Macomber Christmas-themed books like they were going out of style.  From just after the holiday until maybe February—I couldn’t seem to get enough. It might offend those who have loftier aspirations, but as much as I love and appreciate the different, the inventive, the quirky, I also just love the… how shall I say?  Commercially formulaic.  When done well, it’s comfortable like a good pair of yoga pants, and sometimes I just need that predictable happy ending and vicarious bit of schmaltz.  Macomber does that well, and I don’t know… maybe I was in a place where I was subconsciously researching the formula to see if I could figure it out from this new grown up place where I’m considering that writing could be more than just a hobby.  Maybe I wanted to know what was selling so I’d know what my options were.  Maybe I just needed a little Christmas even after Christmas was over.  It always feels so fast.

Anyway… I do have another Christmas story that is MUCH farther along than this one, but it’s almost too far along to share without finishing.  Or maybe that’s just an excuse and a little fear talking.  Fear and laziness.  I don’t have all of it typed up and available for copying and pasting.  Yes, this actually predates the current model of computer tower.  Everything is on floppy disks.  Try finding an A drive in this day and age.  So until I can scan what exists only in print (and some of it is even long-hand and will need to be typed), I offer you this teaser of a story that someday might be. 

Enjoy!  And have yourself a Merry little Christmas.  :)

Abby desperately wanted to feel festive.  The twinkling lights, piped in holiday music, and sparkling glamour of the mall’s oversized, rafter-hung decorations practically dared her to not find the spirit within, while the throng of rude, rushed, and loud holiday shoppers conspired and all but guaranteed she’d never be able to.  Tipping the scale slightly in the cheery direction was the presence of her 10-year-old sister Allison (half-sister if you wanted to be technical about it, but she didn’t like labels), holding her hand in a gesture of affectionate regression while they stood in line waiting to have their pictures taken with the mall Santa. 

It had actually been Abby’s own idea, a fact which annoyed her now after what already felt an interminable wait, and plenty of children left to go before it would be their turn.  She’d gotten caught up for a moment, lost in the selectively preserved memories of Christmases past, and suggested Allison have her picture taken with the man in red.  Ally wasn’t really up for it, at that fragile age walking the line between childish cutie and pre-teen terror; but suddenly that made Abby need it more.  This would probably be the last year she could be cajoled or even bribed into doing it… and though Abby wasn’t yet ready to let go, she knew that someday she’d have to.  So they’d better make this one count.  She begged Allison and did offer her ten bucks after a volley of no’s, and then Ally hit her with something she thought was her ace-in-the-hole: “I’ll do it if you do it.” 

And without even thinking how ridiculous it was going to look when the time came, Abby trumped her with, “You’re on, kid!”

And now here they were.  “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked the younger girl.

Ally shot her older sister a look of aggravated disbelief.  “Well, you’re not changing your mind now!” she retorted.

“Okay, okay—“ Abby put her hands out in supplication, as if to ward off the hairy stare the girl could have leveled on her for a solid ten minutes straight if she’d had the mind.  “Just checking…”

She looked ahead at the remaining children between Santa and themselves and sighed.  Did each child have a three-page list?  Did they not understand this was just a photo op?  Well, no, of course they didn’t, and she knew that, she was just getting tired of standing in the pointy-toed boots she’d been dumb enough to wear.  When will I learn I score no points for being fashionable with a pained grimace on my face?

“What are you going to ask for?” Ally cut into her self-pitying reverie.

“Hm?  Ask who for what?”

Ally sighed at her sarcastically, indicating the level of stupidity she currently considered her older sister to be endowed with.  Santa.  What are you going to ask him for?”

Now it was Abby’s turn to level the “are you a moron?” stare.  “I’m not asking him for anything, wise-guy.  I’m just in it for the picture.” 

Ally shook her head.  “No, you have to ask him for something.  That’s the rule.  I mean, if you’re gonna make me do this, at least have a little fun with it, Abby.”

That made Abby chuckle.  It wasn’t in any way an atypical remark coming from Allison, who was ten-going-on-forty-seven most of the time.  And that’s why she was so much fun to hang out with.  Abby could treat her like a contemporary and Allison was totally able to hang.  Which maybe said more about Abby’s level of immaturity than anything else, when she thought about it.

“Okay,” she said.  “I’ll have fun with it.  I’ll ask him for a Barbie dream house or something.”

“Well, you shouldn’t waste his time,” Ally said, mockingly adopting the big sister tone she’d gotten from Abby on more than one occasion. 

“What are you talking about?” Abby demanded, feigning outrage.

“He’s gonna know you don’t really want a Barbie dream house—“

“I totally want a Barbie dream house!” Abby insisted.

Ally rolled her eyes.

“I’m serious,” Abby said, and for half a second she actually was.  “I never had one…” she muttered to herself.

The woman behind her was poking her a bit agitatedly.  “Miss?  You’re up.”

“Oh.”  Abby headed over to the photographer, giving Allison a guiding prod toward Santa, as if she didn’t know where to go. 

“I got it, Ab—“ she called over her shoulder dryly. 

“Yeah, yeah,” Abby said, shaking her head and sharing an amused wink with the photographer as she handed over the money for Allison’s picture, watching her sister scare the bejeezus out of the Santa-du-jour as she geared up as if she were going to take a flying leap and body-slam into his lap.  At the last second she stopped her momentum and let Santa guide her gently onto one knee with a relieved sigh. 

Abby stood by patiently as Allison conversed animatedly with Santa.  Ally was just far enough away that Abby couldn’t hear what they were saying for all the ambient noise directly around her.  Whatever it was, Ally’s eyes were sparkling mischievously, and Santa seemed thoroughly engrossed.  They both shot a glance her way and she felt distinctly uncomfortable, knowing they were talking about her, but not knowing why. 

Finally Ally slid from the red-velvet lap and headed over towards her, with one final parting look at Santa, who gave her a conspiratorial thumbs up.

“What did you do?” Abby asked suspiciously.

“Nothing,” Ally said innocently.  “Your turn.”

The woman behind them had started to head for the photographer, but Abby cut her off, shoving more money into the photographer’s hands.  “Sorry—I’m getting a picture, too.”

“Oh, give me a break—“ the woman scoffed, annoyed.

“Get over it, lady,” Abby shot back reflexively.  Then catching sight of Ally’s shocked (and downright amused) face she added, “And Merry Christmas!”

She hurried away before she could hear what the woman had to say in return.

“Well, hello, ‘little girl!’” Santa greeted her bemusedly, patting his left knee with a chuckle. 

Grinning sheepishly, Abby half-sat on the proffered knee, hovering over it and looking at the camera until the flash bulb went off.  When it did she said, “Thanks,” and started to rise, but Santa had an arm round her waist and said, “Whoa, there—what’s your hurry?  Don’t you have any Christmas wishes?”

“Uh…” Abby chuckled, straining slightly against the surprisingly strong arm pulling her back down.  She landed a bit awkwardly on Santa’s lap and tried to steady herself.  She thought she’d probably break his knee compared to the tots he hoisted all day, but he didn’t seem at all fazed.  “Not really,” she resigned, answering his question.

“Well, I could bring you that Barbie dream house, but I doubt it would really make you happy,” he teased.

She looked over at Ally who was laughing hysterically and stuck out her tongue.  Might as well play along, she decided.  She looked at Santa, trying to discern the man behind the fluffy sea of beard and mustache beneath the hat.  No hint of his hair or even eyebrows showed, leaving her guessing at his age, though the faint, fine lines around his eyes as he chuckled at her seemed to indicate a man in his late thirties or early forties.

“Well, since you asked,” she said jovially, “I wouldn’t mind a new car.  I’m so over having to repair the old rust heap I’m currently driving.  And maybe the dream house, but super-size it… ya know, something I could actually live in, versus the tiny apartment I can’t afford to leave just now.  And a new job would be cool.  Maybe something in the music biz, or TV… something where I could become a kajillionaire pretty easily.  Though then you’d have to bring me some talent, too…”

“Is that all?” he asked, laughing.

She paused, the reality of her life suddenly weighing down on her, and the truth of the depth of her playful requests dawning.  Was that all?  Not even close.  A soul mate, she thought.  Someone to share this all with… someone whose presence is comforting even when everything else sucks….  But she didn’t say any of that aloud.  She looked up into his eyes—strange, kind eyes—and said quietly, “That’s all.”

He held her gaze for a moment as if sizing her up and then jerked his chin toward the line where Ally was waiting for her.  “That’s your sister?”

“Yes.  My Rent-a-Child,” she joked.  “Available for all occasions.”

Santa laughed at that, and it wasn’t the practiced “Santa” laugh she’d heard thus far.  It was a deep, throaty rumble that seemed to cheer her.  “You’re lucky to have her,” Santa said. 

“You better believe it,” Abby agreed.  She glanced back toward the line, which was no shorter than when she’d joined it hours ago.  “I think I’ve taken up enough of your time.  Thank you for being a good sport.”

She stood up and started to walk back to Ally.

“Merry Christmas!” Santa called after her.

“Merry Christmas,” she returned, then strode off into the sea of shoppers, Ally’s hand tightly in hers.

Notes 0


6 August 2010


I probably wouldn’t have thought to blog about this for a while if it hadn’t suddenly decided to come back around in my life.   I’m Facebook friends with two people from back in my tap days, and one of them was posting tap videos for the other, and naturally they were in my newsfeed and I saw them.  They made me nostalgic, watching the big dance number from “Black and Blue” from the ’89 Tony awards, which I have on tape, but haven’t thought to watch in years.  Then as I was searching  the “Ts” in Newbury Comics for a joke gift for my sister’s bridal shower (the movie “Toy Soldiers”) I came across a DVD of “Tap” for seven bucks.  That’s right there in my poor-girl price range, and I had to grab it.  I haven’t seen it in years, but just looking at the cover made me miss it, and miss Gregory Hines in a way that it seems strange to miss a person you’ve never even met.  Then a few nights after rewatching “Tap” (plus all the bonus features, which were so fantabulous because they featured all kinds of interviews with all the old hoofers), I am flipping channels, which means basically going back and forth between USA and Bravo, and there is Dule Hill tapping his ass off on “Psych.”  Why?  Because they have decided to take advantage of his talent and do a tap dance episode, which features a talent show of some sort with many other people tapping, as well as the fabulous Dule. 

So that’s three things, and so I figured it was as good a time as any to delve into my tap years.

When I was 18 I went off to theater school in New York.  I’d been a singer all my life, but discovered I had a powerful belt voice around twelve, when the “Annie” obsession kicked in.   This led me to do musicals in high school and to change my starry-eyed course from film and television (my first loves) to musical theater as a career choice.  I’d danced from the age of four through thirteen, so I had a strong dance background, and of course like any leading lady in any high school production of anything, the fact that I could “act” was a given.   In my little pond I was what’s called a “triple threat” and I went off to school to learn how to be an even bigger threat and do it all professionally.

Before I left for New York I made regular trips into Harvard Square to the only newsstand around that carried any of the “trades” (like Backstage, THE source for Broadway show auditions and other professional theater jobs), and felt SO cool doing it.  It was from Backstage that I learned the phrase “singers who move well,” which it turned out was the proper description of what I did.  Having many friends who were “dancers,” and knowing that I couldn’t truly do half of what they did without even blinking, I never felt comfortable calling myself a dancer.

This changed while I was in theater school.  Now older, and less worried about the catty gossip and bullying that had sadly driven me from continuing dance classes as a young teen, I found myself surrounded by serious dancers and dance instructors who were all invested in helping me grow. I used to dance in the hallway during one of the older group’s classes, because I’d been told there wasn’t room for me to audit the class from inside the classroom; it wasn’t fair to the people who were in that division, who were paying for that teacher’s attention, and I had my own classes where I could benefit from the teacher’s critical eye.  Undeterred, I stood just outside the door, watching the class in the reflection of one of the mirrors, practicing my ballet barre (sans physical barre) as if I were in the class, while students passed me on their way to the vocal practice rooms, student lounge, or their own classes.  I was that dedicated.   It paid off as I lost weight, gained confidence, and became capable of things I’d never dreamed I’d be able to do.  Suddenly I was chosen for the final demo numbers when midterms came around.  Suddenly I was the one taking over the class when the teacher had to step out.  Suddenly I was eligible for the “singers who dance” category. 

While all of this revolution in dance was happening, I fell in love with one particular form of dance and that was tap. 

 I’d never really cared much about tap before, to be honest.  I’d done it throughout my childhood, because in the early dancing school years it was always a split class that incorporated both ballet and tap.  Later I continued simply because I already knew how to do it, so what was the point in stopping?  I can’t say I ever had any particular love for it.  As a kid (and frankly, even now) I always wanted the things I didn’t have, and so I pined to dance on pointe, and I wished I possessed the courage and flexibility for tumbling.  I studied jazz and wanted desperately to be as good as the best dancers in the class, but I was far too inhibited.  Too busy comparing my underdeveloped chest and pot belly to the skinny kids younger than me, and the blossoming girls my age who looked gorgeous in their leotards, and not like a sausage in lycra.  I didn’t have much stretch, couldn’t do any kind of split leaps or tricks that would have really put me at the next level.  What was worse, I didn’t even know yet that I was missing those things.  In high school, when I met the kids who had trained at the other big dance studio in town (which was naturally not the one I went to—don’t get me started), I realized just how far behind I was, and I got over the notion of being a “dancer.”  None of them could sing so it seemed pretty even.

At any rate, I caught up while in theater school, where we were exposed to everything—tap, jazz, ballet, theater dance (a category unto itself where we learned things like the original choreography to “One” from “A Chorus Line” or the big dance break in “Forty-Second Street”).  Suddenly I was really good at all of it.  It didn’t hurt that the classes were all mixed level, and there were kids in there who’d never danced a box step in their lives.  It really boosted my confidence. 

My champion though was my tap teacher, a woman named Carol Conway, who had the same red hair I had, a fantastic body that I was on the way to mirroring, and an approach to dance and movement unlike any I’d ever encountered.  Carol had been our Movement teacher in our first semester, and I have to say I didn’t love her right off the bat.  That class confounded me a bit.  We learned about the Laban/Bartenieff technique, and it was kind of like, “I was told there would be no math…” It was all so clinical and bizarre (I eventually learned to love it and use it to this day).  Even though she also taught our Ballet and Tap classes, my problems in Movement class made it hard for me to see her clearly, and her me.  Of course, in my first semester of theater school I was still fat, still inhibited, still so out of my element I was of no use to anyone.  Anyone who’s ever taken any kind of theater program can relate to the fact that the initial stages are all about breaking you of your bad habits, breaking down your weird protective walls, and getting you to a place where you can be a vessel for all the things they are trying to offer you to help you survive one of the craziest businesses out there. 

By my second semester I was on my way, and it was then I discovered that I LOVED tap dancing.  Carol and I started to bond as I really took to her techniques and she saw my potential.  I had great fast feet, and I was a sponge when it came to remembering choreography.  I totally idolized her and she encouraged me like there was no tomorrow.   In February of 1989 the movie “Tap” with Gregory Hines was released, and that changed everything for me.  I’d seen Gregory dance before, of course.  I’d seen “White Nights” and I’d seen him on late-night television and the like.  He was awesome, and an inspiration, but suddenly there was a new layer to my appreciation: I UNDERSTOOD WHAT HE WAS DOING.  I could do it too.  I could hear it, I could feel it, my feet were totally on board.  It was heaven.  With Carol’s blessing I bought a pair of flat tap shoes (goodbye character shoes!) and she challenged me every way she could.

My new obsession led me to the Henry LeTang studio.   Here’s my journal entry of my first visit to the studio: 

Friday, April 21, 1989

I should’ve been doing my Life Study.

The thought flicked across my mind briefly as I stepped out into the sunlight from the dark interior of the Beacon Hotel.  I had approximately an hour-and-a-half between classes, which I could have well used to “polish” (read: make up) my Life Study before I had to show it to Randolf, Eliza and the rest of the class later that afternoon.  Today was the final day, when all the stages would be combined to create a full, three-dimensional life—breath, body alignment, body in motion, and voice.  Admittedly, the project hadn’t gotten even half the attention it deserved, demanded.  But I wasn’t worried.  What I was doing was far more important to me.  I understood the process and the value of Life Study.  Even if Randolf failed me today, I would still be able to use the technique to create characters—later.  When I had more time.  Right now I had a subway to catch.

Still, I decided to walk the rest of the way to the bank and the subway station as Alice Campagna.  Or as near Alice as I could remember.  Being technically incorrect didn’t bother me, as long as I didn’t look like myself.  I had my priorities straight.  I was prepared to wing it. 

It had been a little over a month since Barry’s last class.  Thanks to work, and Barry’s rule about limiting myself to three classes a week, it wasn’t the huge transition I’d expected it to be now that the academic part of fourth semester was over.  If I had gone from nine extra classes a week to zero it would have been hard, but the difference between three and zero wasn’t that drastic.  Still, I was feeling restless.  And if I was nudgy now, what would I be like in another month with a seven-week vacation staring me in the face?

For a long time I’d been planning to check out the Henry LeTang School of Dance.  I figured near the end of the semester I would scout around and find some classes to take during the break.  But after watching the PBS special “Tap Dance in America,” and now that I had my flat shoes, I couldn’t wait. 

The spark that had been flickering for the past couple months had finally exploded and my feet were burning the desire was so strong; the desire to be a part of the movement, and the spirit, and the rhythm, and the history.  I needed it.

So there I was, boarding the Number One Broadway Local on my way to this mystical, awesome place that I wanted desperately to be the welcoming haven I needed for it to be.  Just please don’t let it be like Steps, I prayed silently.  If I get snubbed I’ll die…

The train reached the platform at the same time I did, so I was actually in transit by 12:45, and making good time.  The ride seemed to take forever.  Only five stops before the one I needed and no delays, but I felt like it had to be one-thirty already, so I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped off the train and the station clock said not-quite-12:55.  Less than ten minutes for fifty blocks wasn’t bad.  I made my way to the street and stood for a moment to get my bearings.

I’d never been so far Downtown before, and it hadn’t occurred to me that the scenery would be different.

The buildings were buildings, nothing remarkable.  Not many apartment buildings, but no skyscrapers either.  It felt lower, wider, if that makes sense.  There weren’t one-third as many people walking the streets as I was accustomed to pushing through outside of Fairway or Pandemonium.  It was eerie and I kept my guard up.  It was like a whole different side of the world.  A whole new social class.

I went the wrong way before I found the right way and again I wondered what time it was and if the studio would make me feel that the commute was worthwhile.  One-oh-nine was past the middle of the street, closer to Sixth Avenue.  West Twenty-Seventh was even more deserted than Seventh Avenue, with closed up freight entrances and dark, empty spaces-for-rent.  I hated feeling like I didn’t know where I was.  I wasn’t even sure if I was in the Village or not; I couldn’t remember what numbered street was the boundary.

One-seventeen, one-fifteen, getting close.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled open the door at one-oh-nine/one-eleven—the few men on the street (there were no women, I wonder why that is?) had leered at me obscenely and I was only too happy to put some distance between myself and them. 

The school was on the eighth floor, and I’m convinced the elevator was one of the oldest in Manhattan.  It was slower even than the one above Andy’s Deli.  Which gave me plenty of time to get good and nervous.  I don’t know what I had to be so antsy about, but a butterfly was doing a samba in my stomach, and no matter how deeply I breathed it didn’t stop.  The fact that I knew the elevator cables were going to snap any moment and send me plunging to my death probably didn’t help matters.

By the seventh floor I could hear the sounds of tapping feet which grew louder as the elevator climbed.  When the car reach the eighth floor, making three or four false stops before the door opened, the butterfly gave one more panicky flutter, then landed.  I stepped out quickly.  I was in the studio.

Large, gold script letters proclaiming “LeTang” hanging on the wall directly in front of me clued me in.  Another sign reading “Henry LeTang School of Dance” dangling slightly cock-eyed from a pipe at the entrance of a hallway on my left reiterated it.

A middle-aged woman with short blond hair was sitting at a desk to the right.  On a couch beneath the script “LeTang” was a younger girl, perhaps my age, with the same shade of blond hair hanging to her shoulders.  They both looked up briefly as I entered, and I half-smiled timidly at them.  The older woman was on the phone and the younger one was watching her expectantly, as if she couldn’t wait for her to be finished.

I shifted my bag on my shoulder and glanced around uncertainly.  The younger blond looked over at me.  I seized the opportunity.  “Do you have a class schedule?”

“Yeah.  On the table.”  She pointed to the dark cavern of hallway where I could make out the beginning of a black table, rimmed with silver.  The other end of it was lost in the shadows.  On the visible end was a stack of white paper printed with the schedule.  I took one, but I didn’t look at it right way.  I was staring down the hall.

Twenty feet down the darkened hallway was an entrance-way shining with sunlight.  On the other side, inside the room, were people tapping.  Hesitantly, I walked ‘til I was within five feet of the door, always expecting to hear someone calling me back, telling me I had no business there.  No one said a word. I watched.  A thirties-ish woman with a frizzy blond ponytail perched absurdly in the middle of her head was showing a step to a man about her age.  Farther into the room two black kids, a boy and a girl about ten or eleven, were practicing together.  Between and behind the rest was another teenager meticulously trying to work through a complex step.  They all took turns glancing curiously over at me, but their gazes returned to the mirror and their dancing when they saw that I was no one they knew. 

Remembering the schedule in my hand, I looked down.  Under bold black letters declaring the name and address of the school was the schedule of classes.  Monday to Friday – 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm.  Seven o’clock was perfect for me if I wasn’t working; it was the only class I’d be able to make.  There was a special note about Saturday classes, but Mythology took up the greater part of my Saturdays so I brushed it aside without a second thought.  Taught by Henry, Ellie LeTang, & Louid Baldonieri.  That’s exactly what it said.  I grinned at the typographical error wondering whether the correct name was Louis or Louie.  Since “D” is under “E” on a typewriter keyboard, and directly to the right of ”S,” a slip of the finger was conceivable in either case.  At any rate, I knew Louid was a man, as was Henry.  I’d also gotten the impression that the woman behind the desk was Ellie.  So who was teaching this class?

I went back down the hallway to the front room.  In front of the couch was a low piece of furniture with a hardwood square table between two cushions, matching those on the couch and loveseat.  I wasn’t sure if it was a coffee table or bench of some sort, so I stood staring at it for a minute before I sat gingerly on the cushion opposite the younger girl: “Which of these times is an intermediate class—and how do you differentiate between the levels?”

She began, “Well, what my father tries to do is—“ and she continued with a detailed explanation of how the classes were run, but I only half heard her.  My mind had wandered at “my father.”  I was sitting there talking to Henry LeTang’s daughter.  Immediately I was lost in a fantasy of becoming best friends with her—eating and spending nights at the LeTang house, rubbing elbows with people like Gregory Hines, maybe even being cast in the next movie.  I couldn’t help myself.  I was star-struck.

“How did you hear about my father?” she asked.

I described how I’d repeatedly seen the LeTang name connected with all the best tap shows I’d come in contact with and come to the conclusion that this was the man to learn from.

“Would you like to watch a class for a few minutes?”

I nodded eagerly and followed her back to the sunlit doorway.  She pointed inside the room to a couple of metal folding chairs at the back, then left me. 

I watched, inspired, as the teacher drifted back and forth, splitting time amongst her four students.  When she stayed long enough with the older man to repeatedly break down an intricate series of steps, my feet began to move.  I was hardly aware of it, my body just took off in its own direction.  While he was still struggling with the rhythm, I already had it.  It was jazzy and different, yet amazingly simple—the trick was in the coordination.

I got up and left the room.  I didn’t need to watch anymore.  I was hooked.

Back in the waiting room I asked Mr. LeTang’s daughter a few more questions about prices and stuff. 

“How much are private lessons?”

“Seventy-five dollars.”

I grimaced.  I’d expected it to be out of my league, but that was phenomenal!

“For an hour?”

She nodded.

“And who teaches those?”

“That’s with Mr. LeTang.”  It was the woman at the desk who spoke.  She was still on the phone, but she’d turned away from the mouthpiece long enough to say that and smile at me.

“Wow,” I breathed.  A private session with Henry LeTang HIMSELF! was worth seventy-five dollars.  But I’d be too intimidated to tap!

"That’s Mrs. LeTang,” the daughter said conspiratorially, gesturing to her mother who’d returned to her call.

“I know,” I replied wide-eyed, although I hadn’t really been sure until she’d said that.  Suddenly I realized I had no idea what her name was.  I asked her. 

“Trisha LeTang,” she answered.  And instead of introducing myself I just grinned foolishly and nodded.

“I’ll be seeing you!” I sang out as I got on the elevator.  Already I was praying that I wouldn’t be needed as an alternate at Mythology so I could return that night for a class.  If it hadn’t been for Life Studies I probably would have skipped Acting and taken the three o’clock class.  When I’d asked Trisha I found out the teacher I’d seen was Donna Bennett, formerly of the Hartford Ballet Company it said on the schedule.  She also taught ballet classes at the studio, which I’d never expected them to have, and someone named Randy supposedly taught jazz.  Donna certainly looked more like a ballet dancer, but her tap was good enough for me, so I wasn’t going to type her out.

The first person I saw when I got back to AMDA was Carol Conway.  She was thrilled that I’d finally gone, and even more thrilled that I’d liked it.  But she was absolutely baffled by the idea of one class containing all levels of experience.  “There’s a reason they’re doing that,” she mused, but she didn’t know what it was.

I didn’t care.  All I knew was I was in love with the place.  It had seemed so familiar!  Now that I’d had time to think about it, I realized that I’d had absolutely no pre-conceived notions of what the place would look like.  I was going to just wait and see.  And what it had reminded me of was the studio in “Tap.”  Not so much as to make me wonder if they’d shot the movie there, but enough to make me feel like it wasn’t a coincidence.

I was still reflecting on my discovery, and trying to figure out when would be the first possible opportunity to take a class, when I saw Francoise in the hallway.  On the subway ride home I’d made up my mind not to mention it to her.  I don’t know why, but I just felt like it wouldn’t be a good idea to tell her about it.  Now that she was right in front of my face, however, I couldn’t stop myself from saying: “I just went down to the Henry LeTang School.”

Her eyes gleamed anxiously, “And?”

“I loved it!”


I nodded emphatically, too caught up in my own excitement to worry about the fallout of sparking her interest.  I told her all about it. 


Okay, can I just say: that entry was ten pages, BOTH SIDES, of black composition notebook paper, written in long-hand.  I went to school in the morning, went to the studio in the afternoon, went back to school (aced my Life Study), presumably went to work in the evening, did some homework, and then sat and wrote essentially twenty pages of long-hand journaling.  Oh, to have my twenties (not even) back.  Energy.  I vaguely remember it.

I didn’t make very many changes to this, unbelievably enough (I expected to need to), and the ones I did make were very minimal changes of punctuation or the occasional word added or taken away for the sake of clarity.  This is how I wrote over twenty years ago.  It’s very interesting to reread something like this and discover that my journaling style and voice have not changed very much over time.  Also, apparently I had my habit of starting sentences with “But” firmly in place even then.  I’ve worked a bit lately on breaking that habit, mostly because nine times out of ten it’s better to keep the thoughts together in one sentence with “but” doing its job as a conjunction and not a sentence-starter.  I still sometimes use it to start a sentence, but I’m trying to limit myself to those times when it’s truly stylistically demanded and dynamic.

I loved rereading this entry because I could see everything again, and honestly without all that detailed writing I probably couldn’t have told you half of what the studio looked like at this point.  Of course, I laughed at my reaction to Trisha (who is one of the Facebook friends mentioned above), and at all I know that is yet to come, which I will try to type out and share with you guys.  It actually kills two birds because I’ve been wanting to digitize my old journals for years, and it will help me figure out what, if anything, might be good fodder for a full-length memoir.  Honestly I might just call it “Crazy Lady.”  Oh, you have no idea.  Stick around.

Notes 0


5 August 2010

Casting Call

As a former actress (who may yet be an actress again someday—yeah, it’s ALL coming back around lately), I have often found myself thinking of things in terms of casting. 

I remember in high school that a friend of mine used to tell me that I had Dustin Hoffman’s nose from the bridge down.  On the one hand that wasn’t thrilling when I wanted to have a tiny little ski-jump nose like the Wakefield twins in the Sweet Valley High novels or something, but on the other hand even then my starry-eyed brain was clicking with, “So someday I will have to play his daughter in something…”

Every now and again I’ll see performers who I feel are doppelgangers of each other and I’ll be thinking of how they should totally be playing relatives in a movie or something.  As my acting aspirations went from being on the back burner to being in a Ziploc bag in the freezer, I started thinking of things in terms of writing.  I’d come up with a cast of characters I’d wish I could write a project for and then push like hell to make it happen.  Of course, I have zero screenwriting experience or ability, and honestly, these ideas come to me so randomly that I really have yet to actually come up with a story for anything.  But here are my current two favorite combinations of people I’d like to see in projects together:

1. As siblings: Steve Carell, Ellen Degeneres and Scott Bakula.  They all have prominent noses and a similar enough look, plus Steve and Ellen have something about their eyes that feels similar to me.  Also Steve and Ellen have similar comedic styles and I think it would be hilarious to see them together.  And I’m all for Scott Bakula in ANYTHING, so he just rounds it out.

2. As sisters: Kyra Sedgwick, Julia Roberts, Piper Perabo, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Hathaway, and Lea Michele.  Their mother?  Lindsay Wagner. Yes, it’s time she had something juicier than the Sleep Number Bed commercials.

I’ve been wanting to see Lindsay Wagner and Sarah Michelle Gellar on screen together since the later seasons of Buffy when SMG’s hair was super long and wavy and she was a dead ringer for our 70’s bionic heroine.  In watching "The Closer" I have noticed that Kyra Kedgwick also shares a very similar look with Sarah Michelle.  Truth be told, I’d have loved to have it be a triple generational thing with Lindsay as mother to Kyra as mother to Sarah Michelle, but the ages aren’t really quite right to be believable (honestly, Kyra’s a little old for Lindsay to have birthed her except in high school, but I can live with that).  Piper Perabo is the bridge to the dark (-haired) side, because Piper shares some Kyra/Sarah Michelle-ness, but she also sometimes makes certain faces and turns into a blond Lea Michele.  Watch "Covert Affairs" and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Lea Michele—as much as she resembles Idina Menzel—first struck me as a young Julia Roberts.  Something about the smile.  Of course that is also the case with Annie Hathaway, who has always reminded me (albeit peripherally) of Julia.  So that’s my argument for those three.  Now there again I’d have loved to have had Julia as mom to either Lea Michele or both Lea and Annie (I love calling her Annie, don’t ask me why), but again the ages just don’t work.  Well, Lea Michele could play slightly younger, and Julia could play slightly older (or teen mom) and it could work, but I kind of feel like it’s just easier to make them all sisters.  Some crazy, giant, girl family and isn’t there just a script so needing to be written about that?  Wish I knew what the story was…

The problem in this situation is the final bridge, which is the father role.  You want somebody as hot as Lindsay Wagner still is, who is old enough to be believable.  I was kind of stunned when I went trolling through IMDB for ideas (yes, I took it that far).  I mean, like Robert Wagner.  Total hottie, formerly dark-haired, so the genetics work, but he’s like REALLY OLD.  I had no idea.  I mean, he’s EIGHTY (he does look great though)!  Lindsay is only 62.  And not like they couldn’t have married, but still.  I feel like that’s going too old.  So then I looked through the people born in 1949 and around then, and you get people like Richard Gere; technically old enough, but he played Julia’s love interest in TWO movies.  Not suddenly going to be believable as her father.

On the younger (Lindsay’s same age or within a couple years) side of the spectrum there’s David Strathairn—who I love, and who I totally think could explain Anne Hathaway’s relation in all this, but who probably isn’t looking to start putting himself in the father-of-grown-women category in Hollywood; you’ve got Patrick Duffy, Gerald McRaney, Kevin Kline, Sam Neill, Alan Thicke, Chip Zien (oh if he were only taller), Jonathan Pryce, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Spano (another shorty), Tim Curry… I think Tim Curry totally explains Annie and Julia’s big eyes, and he could be an interesting choice just because I like to see him do just about anything.

Go a little older and we’ve got Timothy Dalton, Craig T. Nelson (who really is perfect in essence, but does he “look” enough like everybody?), Al Pacino (short!), James Caan, James Brolin, Judd Hirsch (though he’s another one who’s way older than I thought—75!), Robert DeNiro, and Jeremy Irons.

So there are a lot of choices, but none of them came to me unbidden as being “exactly right” the way the actresses came to me.  By the way, I don’t know how tall anybody really is, so when I yell “short!” I may be jumping the gun, but I think that Julia and Anne are both tall enough to require a taller guy to make it work.  Not like there’s never been a daughter taller than her father in real life, but I think visually it’s better if they’re at least on an even playing field.

Can you believe how much thought I’ve given this completely imaginary, never-happening project?

Well, it was fun regardless! What do you think?

Notes 0


5 August 2010

Gearing Up

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how I want to do things over here in Tumblr Land.  I have a different blog over at Wordpress, and I have discovered in comparing the two that I don’t like the way that Tumblr does their “pages.”  Or maybe it’s just the template I chose.  Either way, I am trying to settle on a format to help keep some kind of streamlined thing happening for those who may become regular readers.

Ideally, I’d have a nav column on the right or left with links to pages where I would blog on any variety of subjects regularly.  For instance, I’d love one page for the memoirs stuff that might eventually become a full-fledged book.  I’d love one page for all the random fiction stuff that has no other place to go—or maybe even a number of categorized pages since some of the fiction is farther along than others and deserves its own little section.  I’d love a page I could devote to a weekly-ish column I’d call “Don’t Get Me Started.”  But Tumblr (or maybe this template—I admit I haven’t done the trial and error on it yet) isn’t quite set up for that. 

So I’m thinking I might just reuse titles any time I’m typing something that falls into the same category or whatever.  So like you’d see “Don’t Get Me Started” in the title line and know that it was going to be another rant about some ridiculous facet of life on this planet, and particularly in this country, and you’d be ready for it. I haven’t decided yet, but things are leaning that way.

I have another memoirs-ish post started, by the way.  It hasn’t made the cut yet because it’s a sort of past-coming-back-around-to-the-present type deal and I needed to consult my journals before posting.  So I did that last night.  Consulted the journals.  As one might expect I found myself reading far too many things both before and after I found the entry I was looking for (which I found WAY too easily, I might add—like the universe was really behind me for the first time ever), and was up until 6:00 in the morning reading the rest of my life as it happened around the time of this journal entry.

I’d like to confess to you right now that I was DERANGED.  I want to own it.  I want you to know that I know.  Because I mean, if I’m going to do this—if I’m going to share these bits of my life—the jig is gonna pretty much be up almost immediately, and I’m not going to waste any time or insult anyone’s intelligence by playing dumb about it.  I know.

I spent a lot of time laughing at myself last night, and it was a good time.  I also had to question how I am still alive and walking around, thinking back on some of it.  I kind of can’t wait to share it.  And yet… even anonymous (-ish) I am a bit afraid to.  But I’ll get over that.  I mean, I’m just narcissistic enough to think it’s fascinating and funny, and that somebody is going to give a shit about any of it.

Wandering through those old journal entries I was hit with another angle for the eventual memoirs.  Not sure if it will pan out, but I am considering approaching it from a place of looking for love in all the wrong places and never really recognizing that I’m a crazy person until decades later.  So maybe combining the old journal entries on the 9000 men I threw myself at (who ran for their lives, by the way) with present-day commentary on just what a numbskull I was without ever knowing it.  “Delusions of Prince Charming.”   Maybe?  I don’t know… I’m gonna play with it.  In the meantime, I will be sharing some of the good ones with you as a test run, and I really do think you’ll find it amusing.  Or sad.  Or both.  Stand by…

Notes 0


26 July 2010

Was That Out Loud?

Okay. Seriously.  I’m going to start using this thing.  I’m going to figure it out. 

I’m a bit inspired by a young (and I mean YOUNG) friend who is a playwright who did a reading last week, sharing the story of losing his virginity over the course of the short years of his life (if you think about it, it really kind of is a process more than a single defining event).  I was unable to attend the reading, but he did share video of the event with a lucky few, and I was honored to be among them.  He blew me away. Not just because he is a fantastic writer (he is), but also because he is a gifted speaker; and then the cherry on top is the fact that he talked in vivid detail about these very personal experiences.  I don’t know how to do that. Correction: I don’t know how to do that without getting myself into trouble.  Mind you, he is living two states away from his family, so it’s not like his dad was going to walk into this reading.  And he didn’t virally post the videos of the event all over Facebook for everyone to watch; he chose who he wanted to see it and messaged us privately.  Even so, I think he put way more of himself out there than I’ve ever been able to do with my face visible and name attached.  

It’s not because I don’t want to.  I actually probably want to too much.  I’m a Scorpio, which means I’m a complex emotional being, with a propensity to psychoanalyze far too much, too deeply, too often, and too publicly as it turns out.  I have in the past had a tendency to over-share.  My last band break-up was sped up by my public blog processing of the whole affair. And because things can be taken out of context when you aren’t standing there in person to clarify matters, decisions were made before I even knew there was a problem, and I was shut out of our last few shows together, left reeling by this sense of betrayal and misunderstanding that could have been avoided if anyone had simply come to me instead of running around in circles behind my back talking about what I’d written. Of course, that’s expecting grown-ups to act like grown-ups and that doesn’t always happen. So in the end the best way for me to protect myself and not have to censor myself too strenuously is to remain anonymous.  

But I do sometimes wonder if that isn’t defeating the whole purpose.  I mean, if I want to get my name out there as a writer at some point, doesn’t a name have to be attached?  How far can a pseudonym take one?  If there’s no d/b/a to prove that Jill Writer is me, then how do I prove what I’ve written is actually mine if anyone ever decides to steal it?  I am drastically over-thinking all of this, aren’t I? I don’t doubt it.  It’s what I do. 

I suppose for now it will be enough to simply write things and to share things and to see what happens, and try not to be afraid of who figures it out and what I may have said about who when I thought I was safe behind the Wizard’s curtain.  Stop putting the cart before the horse.  

Whew!  Okay, this thing is supposed to be about writing.  About finding an audience, finding some interest and support, and flexing the creative muscles I don’t always remember to flex when I’m running around all willy-nilly in my daily life. So here’s a little something I wrote a while back.  It’s maybe the beginning of something, maybe the middle of something, I don’t know.  It has never been expounded upon, but there are ideas floating around in my head that could take it from here.  It’s just something that I needed to put down one day.  I actually had forgotten all about it and then found it probably a year or two later.  I was sorting through my writing folder, just seeing what was in there, and when I read this I thought, “Damn.  I don’t know where I was when I wrote this or where I thought it was going, but it’s pretty good.”  Maybe you’ll think so, too.

      Breathe, she thought. It’s not as if you’ve never done this before.

      Indeed, she had made it an art form in a sense, and the idea brought a slight smile to her lips that was not quite based in mirth. She felt the familiar weight of the .38 in her hand. She could close her eyes and feel the powerful kick-back pulling the trigger would give her, could smell the faint whiff of smoke that would hang in the air, and the adrenaline started to course through her body, demanding satisfaction.

     “Ma’am? Please, just take whatever you want… please just don’t hurt anybody…”

     The man who spoke, the owner of the small gas market she’d found herself at when necessity beckoned, was crouched on the floor in front of the counter, hands raised pleadingly. The sleeves of his worn flannel shirt had slid down toward his crooked elbows revealing grey arm hair and the faint markings of a tattoo that was older than she was.

     She looked him in the eye and said the same words she’d been saying for what felt like a lifetime, “Nobody gets hurt if nobody gets stupid.”

     From the corner of her eye she saw the younger man in the jeans and t-shirt who’d flirted with her out by the pumps doing the hero twitch. She knew he was sizing her up, thinking if he was lightning quick he could take her down. She knew his type. His hand flexed nervously and in a heartbeat the gun swung in his direction and took out a bag of potato chips three inches from his head. Lays Sour Cream and Onion. A damn waste. The stench of urine and dark stain spreading across his pant-leg told her he’d gotten the message. He sank back against the rack of chips, all noble thoughts erased. “See what you made me do?” she said to him.

     The first shot had done its job though, and now her body was on fire with the high of it. She’d thought for a few minutes earlier that maybe today would be the day she’d walk away from it all. What was it someone had said to her recently? “Every day is a new opportunity to rewrite your future. To change your life.”

     It looked like change was going to have to wait until tomorrow. She grabbed her bag and got to work at the cash register. 

Notes 0


9 June 2010

They Saw Me Coming

So maybe just maybe over time I’ll give you guys little clues that could or could not eventually have you figuring out who I am.  I suppose whether or not you’re able to figure it out depends on whether you’re my sister stumbling upon me, or a total stranger.  I don’t expect my sister to stumble upon this blog.  But stranger things have happened.

At any rate, clue #1 is that I’m forty years old.  This is relevant in the sense that I had never really looked much at Tumblr until like, yesterday.  A friend of mine—who is like twenty-six—uses it for her blog, and so I thought maybe I should check it out one of these days.  Then another friend who is closer to my age (I think—God, it’s really hard to tell, and her birth year is not on Facebook, dammit!) just announced her new blog, which will be hosted by Tumblr.

Now this is exactly typical of me if you knew me.  Don’t worry, you will.  So I go to my friend’s blog and it’s this beautiful theme of hanging flowers that sort of drip all along the different modules of her page and I do the big, gay gasp and think, “I want one of those!”  Yes, I am easily distracted by the shiny, the flowery, the elegant.  Anything with a look that is pulled together and not defined by the typical “hey-I-was-too-lazy-to-choose-a-theme-so-how-‘bout-this-boring-black-page-with-blue-font” kind of deal.  I comment on her Facebook announcement with, “I love your blog!”  Mind you, she hasn’t written a damn thing yet.  Well, a kind of elaborate version of “coming soon.”   That’s it.  And I LOVE her blog.  Because it’s so pretty. 

Yes, I’m aware that my blog isn’t very pretty.  Give me a few minutes to figure all of this out, would you?  Jeez!

So I go to the main page of Tumblr and I read a little bit about why Tumblr is so much cooler than other blog universes, blah, blah, and I’m caught by this little tidbit: “Dozens of Tumblr blogs have even received book deals!”

Aaaannnnddd… SOLD!  To the gullible, yearning, wannabe in the back, trying to pretend she’s all blase about it, when in actuality she wants it so bad she can taste it, and yes the entire Universe CAN smell your desperation, my dear.

I.  Mean.  That was it.  I mean, that was like twenty minutes ago.  I signed right up.  Here I am on post #2.  I am seven different shades of pathetic.

But it’s all good.  Because even just taking this little pathetic step is me doing something about it, right?  I mean, it’s at least me writing things down that people really could read and identify with, right?  I mean, it’s not just all in my head the way it has been, making me kinda crazy, and leaving me drained of energy for all the swirling madness I can’t seem to sort out when it’s all internalized like that.

So it’s a step in the right direction.  I do believe that.  And maybe I’m falling for the oldest trick in the book, but then again… maybe I can still be “discovered.”  It doesn’t hurt to believe it’s possible, does it?  Well, I guess we’ll see.

Notes 0

This Could Get Messy

This is the umpteenth blog I’ve started in as many years.  Usually I try to tie my blogs into my public world (where I am a musician) and use them for the sake of promoting related things, and then also spouting off about unrelated things.  These two ideas often end up in a fight with one another.  Hence the ditching of and restarting of additional blogs, where I yet again attempt to reconcile these two parts of my personality: public versus private persona. 

Having this past year found a new way to blog for the sake of my public persona, I now attempt to give an online blog home to my private persona—the one that yearns and aches and frankly sometimes just wants to stir up some trouble.  Of course, when one is going to stir up some trouble, one does not always want one’s name associated.  If you think that sounds cowardly, you’re darn tootin’.  But really, who can afford to be completely and utterly open in this day and age, and have their name attached to it all?  The whole point of this (maybe) is to not feel restricted by the fact that my mom could read it and totally know it’s me.  I mean, if she can’t Google my name and find this, then that’s no longer a risk, you dig?

So I plan to hide behind at least an initial degree of anonymity (who knows?—maybe later I’ll decide to unveil myself as the crazy person I am) and see just how liberated it makes me feel.

The other part of this experiment is to see just how possible it is to build a blog audience with nothing more than the occasional link or tag helping me along.  I mean, it’s not like I’m gonna go announcing this to my family and friends (defeat the purpose much?)  So it’s going to have to sink or swim on its own merits here, and the word of mouth of anyone who just might happen along and decide they want to become a rabid fan. 

So let’s see how this goes.  Please come back regularly, those who find me, and see what I am bitching about, or waxing poetic and/or philosophical about on any given day.  See if I have a little story for you, or another chapter in one of the many novels I really need to get off my ass and write.  And maybe, just maybe, when all is said and done I’ll have worked my way through some inner turmoil, or maybe even found someone who wants to PAY me to write shit.  That. Would. Be. Nice.

Notes 0


9 June 2010

I’ve been looking for a red suede pump…

(When Harry Met Sally, written by Nora Ephron, as said by Carrie Fisher)