Tag: El

One-minute rehearsal

No problem.
No problem.

Yes I felt kind of silly, going to the rehearsal of a one-minute play I’d written. But the director had invited all the playwrights in my clump. And when I showed up, an hour late thanks to getting sucked back into work after a month away, I was indeed the only playwright there. But the director and actors welcomed me, and sat me down, and although I felt a little foolish, over-eager, definitely not the oh-so-busy-professional who doesn’t have time for such trifles, I was also happy not to be. Happy to remember I don’t need to be. Fine just as I am, etc. AND, I got to watch and be part of their rehearsal process. Which means I got another free lesson in acting and directing.

When it came to my piece and I pulled out my script which I had completely rewritten on the el ride over, oh I’m cringing now remembering this, she listened or at least looked like she was listening to my longwinded explanation of the changes which were probably longer than the play itself – “If it weren’t in a clump of other plays about weather it would be fine, but since everything’s about weather maybe it’s too on the nose and could be more about the relationship? And also I could cut a few lines? Or maybe it’s fine as it is? I’m sorry, I know it’s just a minute, do you want to just not look at these?”

Oh, she did not say, Thank God only one playwright showed up. She did not huff, Why are you cutting into my precious rehearsal time with your needy crazy talk? “Of course,” she said, “Why don’t we just read both versions?”

“Oh, that would be great!” She didn’t seem fazed by the fact that this might be impossible, since I had the only copy of the new version and it was illegible. This puzzled me, because I would not have been able to proceed without first solving this logistical problem. And because the solution would be a pain in the ass — have me tell everyone the changes and mess up their copies with changes that might not get made? — I would have been annoyed, and I would have had to show everyone how much effort it took to figure this out and what a good director I was for making it work.

Instead, she had the cast read the first version, and they were hilarious. The play worked just fine as it was. The director had already given them a concept based on the original script, and they ran with it, and it was all good. No changes needed. “I just want to change these two lines,” I said.

“Love it,” she said, “Actors, we have a couple of line changes.”

And later, when the piece was on its feet, we were able to cut the last line because the actors’ performances had made it irrelevant. I love watching talented people in action. It just makes me glad to be alive.

Not at all like a bird

roof of a shed
Note to self.

I have to eat slower. Last night I was shoving sweet potato fries into my mouth, four at a time. Swaddled in ketchup, smashed into brute taste force. Why? Today I can still taste the lettuce from my Greektown wrap. Probably because I didn’t chew that either. My dad ate very slowly. I used to eat very slowly. What happened? When did I get so impatient with the flavors I supposedly love?

There’s a cardinal outside the kitchen window, perched on the rusty shed in the next yard. He or maybe she – red mostly, but brownish wings – is eating a berry. It’s probably from the tree out front. The one I have to sweep up after every morning starting a month ago, or berries stick to the bottoms of shoes, and flies swarm, and the sickly sweet and rotten smell of ripe smashed fruit fills the front walk.

The bird keeps pecking into the berry, pulling back, twisting its head one way, twisting it the other, and then going back in for one more peck. All the time in the world for that one berry. I’m already thinking of my second cup of coffee. How much can I get done before rehearsal? Vacuum? Grocery store? Call Cuz to pick up where we left off yesterday, our phone call about one relative who has died, and another who probably will die today? I was on the el and it wasn’t the time or the place to mourn.

Stay in this thought. Don’t move on. I was impatient talking about things of the heart on a noisy el train. Feeling I was talking quietly enough, but everyone probably feels that way, when actually they are screaming, “So they turned off the respirator?” into the ear of someone trying to read a restaurant review in Red Eye.

The bird is gone when I return with my phone. He or she eats like a bird, and flies like a bird. I have to remind myself, that’s because he or she is a bird.

After we hung up, I sat and listened to a guy behind me eating some very oniony smelling fast food. The combination of crackling paper and smacking lips and onion smell was making me sick. I pretended I wanted to read the transit map and moved to the exit. I hope I don’t make that sound when I eat, though when I’m eating I don’t really care. I just want to get the fries in as quickly as possible, before I’m too full. That’s the problem with abundance. It can induce its own kind of panic, if you are not a bird.

Strangers on a train

Tropicana train
But not as strange as this train.

After 10 years of no contact, I’ve run into Crystal twice inside 10 days. The second time was this morning, on the train. She got on at Rockwell, dragging a big rolling backpack and a portfolio or something and a purse. I watched her, smiling at the sight of her settling herself and her stuff into a single seat. Once she was all settled, she looked up and saw me. She gathered all her gear and came over and sat beside me. “Not you again,” I believe she said.

The first time I’d run into her was at Harvestime. I was running in while Dave waited in the car outside. The parking lot was full and we only needed a couple of things. I saw her as I grabbed a cart. She was checking out. I watched as she rolled her cart full of shopping bags toward me, making sure it was her, taking her in—dressed in black, perhaps even more striking than she was 10 years ago, perfectly arched eyebrows, a bit of a smirk.

That first time, we caught up hurriedly (“Oh, dealing with elderly parents like everyone right now.” “Oh, mine are both dead.” “Oh, I’m sorry.” “No, I’ve got it easy.”), showing pictures of cat and dog, with more parentheticals for pets gone by, the ones we’d had when we were friends.

No more than five minutes, and then “See you in the neighborhood.” I didn’t want to ask too many questions, appear too curious. It would be like trying to befriend a stranger, like picking someone at random in the produce section and saying, “Let’s exchange numbers.” But it felt good to see her and know a little of her life. “Dave’s waiting,” I said, not that she knew who Dave was, and we hugged and went our separate ways.

“Sorry I took so long. I ran into Crystal,” I said when I got back in the car.


“An old friend. My old best friend,” I said.

“Oh…” Dave was still racking his brain, or maybe already thinking about getting back to his painting job.

Then yesterday, on my way to a script meeting at The Perfect Cup, I was too lazy to get out my bike. It was too hot. I jumped on the el for three measly stops, and there she was again. We didn’t need to catch up this time. Instead, we joked about our teeth and the mildly disconcerting things dentists had said to us recently, and just like in the old days, my stop came up way too fast. “See you around,” I said and got off the train.

I was very happy as I walked to the coffee shop, feeling after all this time that we have a comfortable if insignificant place in each other’s lives. With some of my favorite people, that’s the best place to be.

The next Johnny Depp movie

Opening shot of hero in the ordinary world.

Last night on the train I saw a grown woman carrying a doll. She wore a black fedora with a few sparklies on it. She was reading Entertainment Weekly with Johnny Depp on the cover. Across her lap was what first looked like a kite but turned out to be a huge plastic tote bag. In the crook of her arm was a doll, blank eyes staring out. The woman didn’t look crazy or even overly emotional. If this were a Johnny Depp movie she’d be the hero. She sat calmly, reading.

Surreptitiously, feigning texting, I snapped a picture. I sent it to my friend Georgia, who wrote back that the picture reminded her of someone we used to work with, who’d been instructed by her therapist to carry a doll. “The doll came to work with her and spent the day in a crib under her desk.” This didn’t look like a therapy doll. It looked like a perfectly reasonable alternative to carrying a tiny dog or a baby. A comforting something in the crook of your arm, with no carbon footprint.