I’ve been a little busy: my grad school application, my daughter’s middle school applications, an online class and, oh yeah, life.
It only makes sense that this month’s column be about what was taking up the most space in my head: my daughter’s middle school application. After going to numerous open houses, magnet fairs and principal coffees, I decided to document our experience for the benefit of others.
Writing a column, by definition, means that it is a first account of my experience, which means, if another person had written this column they might have had a totally different experience at all the middle school fairs and open houses. It is the downside and the upside of writing a first person account. The upside? My experience is my experience. The critics can’t discredit you because I am speaking from my experience. The downside: My experience is only my experience. The critics can spout their experience, which might be diametrically opposed to mine.
As soon as this month’s column hit the stands, the response was immediate. First Fulmore. Then O’Henry. Both shot off letters to the editor, vouching for the redeemable qualities of their schools. I debated for a bit about writing them back. I did in one case and didn’t in the other. I finally landed in the space that these letter writers get to have their opinion, as did I. It’s best to let their voices be heard and not get into a squabbling match.
Another column. Another road trip in my mind. This time, though, I had part of the title working in my head: the strange intimacies of parenthood. I’d had that phrase in my head for a while because of all the relationships I’d formed with other parents. Some close. Some not so close. It all felt very familiar somehow, so I started the car and took off exploring…
Long before I became a parent, while I was still in the throes or sprouting wings and having them clipped by my parents, I used to wonder on a semi-regular basis, how the heck was I born into my family? …
I’ve been away for a while. But I had this idea….
The short version
I am directing the Tennessee Williams’s one-act, Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let me Listen for Frontera Fest. We perform on Tues., Jan 29, At 8 pm.
The Long Version
1977-Paris-For some reason, one act plays are all the rage in Paris that summer. I see several. One is Tennessee Williams’ “Talk to me Like the Rain and Let me Listen.” Maybe I’m hungry to hear American. Maybe I’m 20 and tripped out on the lyrical sexuality of everything around me. Maybe Tennessee just struck the exact right chord but I was knocked out by the play. I swear it was performed in a catacomb in Paris. I swear it was like we had dropped into that couples lousy New York apartment. I swear the couple fought and made love and lived their whole lives in front of me that night.
Ten years later:
I am living in Austin. Jim Fritzler is sort of this demi god of directing. I am hanging out with the “In the West” cast and I ask him if he knows the Tennesee Williams one act. He does. I ask him what he would think of staging the play with three couples (gay, lesbian and heterosexual) couples and performing it back to back. “You mean, perform the play three times with three different sets of actors?” “Yeah,” I say. “Boring,” he says.
The demi god of Austin theatre peed on my idea. Twenty years pass.
The play still lingers in my mind. I am wandering around the streets of Austin late one night last summer with my friend Lou Rigler. I tell him about the play, the back story, my idea and then suddenly, I see a way to do it.
You see, what’s fabulous about this play is that the man and the woman in the script are like two sides of Tennessee Williams talking to each other. In that way, the man and woman in the play can be any couple—gay, lesbian, straight—trapped together, loving each other, hating each other, wanting to flee, wanting to stay, ravaged and ravaging each other. So then I think, “Hey, why don’t I stage the play with four actors—two women and two men—and then kind of open up the play so that the script echoes a bit and the actors can play opposite each other in both gay and straight couples.”
So that’s what I did. Lou Rigler, Liz Fisher, Omid Ghorashi and Debbi DeSimone joined me to help make this idea come to life. So far the rehearsals are great and I think Tom (aka Tennessee) would approve.
Glynda and her beloved partner, Peg Miller were co-owners of Chicago House, the fabled downtown coffee house and performance venue in Austin.
People shape us. It’s that simple really. Some do it by deeply influencing us. Some do it by staying in our lives. Some do it by watching over us. And some, like Peg and Glynda, do it by having a crazy idea like Chicago House and hosting a myriad of folks into their lives, everyday for years and years. Can you imagine? And through it all, these laughing angels Peg and Glynda, watched over us, made us laugh, kept us safe and generally shepherded many of us into adulthood.
Thank you, Peg and Glynda. I hope my kid is as lucky as me to land in some city in the world and find a place like Chicago House and be watched over by such kind (but slightly bawdy and raucous) women and be able to grow up safely away from me.
Thank you, Peg.
Thank you, Glynda. Now you really are an angel.
…you go to a gallery you have never heard of—Okay Mountain—and see absolutely no one you know. Not a soul. And this, in a town where I used to go out A LOT and knew at least fifty percent of the people at any restaurant, theatre or party. Still I forge ahead, pressing through the crowd to try and see the art because, well, that’s I’m there, right? I bump into one guy, in a hat, huddled with another guy, talking. The bump leads to apologies and looking in each other’s faces and then, suddenly there is one recognizable face in this sea of people, only it’s recognizable in a billboard, magazine, television kind of way. Startling really. To be completely adrift in the town I used to know so well and now the only person I recognize in a strange room full of strangers is Lance Armstrong. So odd. So very, very odd.