Shake the machine.

It’s happened to most people at least once.  You’re starving.  You’re on your lunch break, or a break during some godforsaken symposium, or between classes at school. Your blood sugar is about 10.  You gallop your ass with the intensity of an antelope to the nearest vending machine and HOT DAMN they got those jalapeño pork rinds you geek out over. You are Pavlov’s dog. The saliva is forming. Your hands tremble at a rate that would measure about a 7 on the Richter scale.  You shove the change through the slot. Finally it decides to accept the rusty dime that you found stuck in the cup holder of your car.  You hit C7. You watch as the mechanical coil loops lazily clock wise and stops. Then … SON OF A BITCH!!! Your jalapeño pork rinds are suspended in midair, hung by a 1/18th inch section of the lip of the bag. There’s a hallway full of people and a small cluster of salivating antelopes behind you. You wonder if its a good decision. You wonder if people will think you’re crazy, but fuck that. Shake the machine. 

Shake that bastard until all the jalapeño pork rinds in it along with the barbecue Fritos, glazed bear claws, fruit snacks, and packs of double mint gum have to surrender to the force you generate and come tumbling out of their individual mechanical coils.  Shake that fucker til they call security and make sure they have to call reinforcements for your ass. Shake it until you have not an ounce of energy left, your blood sugar finally bottoms out, and they have to call an ambulance to drag your prostrate carcass out the door. Get all the other insulin deficient antelopes and dogs around you to shake it too because after all there is strength in numbers.

Keep going.  Keep shaking. Til you get them damn jalapeño pork rinds, or whatever else it is you desire in this life.

“Stay Hungry.  Keep Grindin’ ” – Barack Obama

Rosie.

That’s just how I feel.

  • There is a polio outbreak in Somalia
  • There are comparisons being drawn between the conflict in Syria and the genocide in Rwanda.
  • George Zimmerman got off scott free for killing an unarmed black teenager. 
  • Stacey Rose is struggling to find gainful employment, has a mere $70 in her bank account and only one more paycheck from her last job coming.

Guess which one of these headlines is keeping me up at night?  As self-centered as it is I often have my head shoved securely up my own ass that I’m unaware the world has bigger problems than mine.  Hell, people in my life have bigger problems than mine.  At times I feel incredibly guilty about my tendency toward self-centeredness until I remember:

  1. I’m human.
  2. I’m not ALWAYS self-centered and actually have times when I am incredibly generous.
  3. The world doesn’t need me to help it rotate more than it needs me to participate.

When the stench and hot of being lodged into myself gets to be too much I am often rescued by an opportunity to volunteer or be of service to someone  else. For the time I’m listening to someone, helping them with a task or otherwise engaging a situation that’s not my own, I feel better.  My finger is off the panic button and I feel like a member of the broader human race.

When those other times return, I try to be conscious of when they arrived. I do what I need to ride them out, the most import part is knowing that despite whatever else is going on in the world the things that are going on in my life are important too.  Does the world need give a shit because I have to have a varicella titer done and paid for out of my own pocket? Probably not. Do I need to? Yes, because caring for my own well being ensures that I’m contributing my very best to the world around me. What I can’t do is stay stuck or react in ways that will move my situation from bad to worse. I must acknowledge the fear (or whatever else I’m feeling) jump into the solution if there’s an immediate one, and accept the situation in it’s entirety. Being a self-serving dick head works in small spurts, no guilty trip required. That’s just the way I feel.

Rosie.

1-2-3 … Independence!

Confession:  I never learned how to play double-dutch.

Well I did, but I was often called “double-handed” (a reference to my inability to catch the rhythmic turning of the two ropes) and when I made awkward knock kneed attempts to jump in they were always dismal failures that ended with me bound up like a newly captured slave (yes it was that bad).  I was laughed at and almost always passed over for a turn when it was declared that there would be a game.

My transition into a life in New York has felt just as awkward and frustrating as my double-dutch exploits.  Today I have been away from Charlotte, NC and everything else that is familiar to me for one month and three days. I often feel “double-handed” trying to catch the rhythm of this new life. At times nothing feels “safe”, not even a trip to the bodega or Stewarts (my upstate balm in Gilead). Every now and then though … I catch a rhythm.

The click-clack of the subway harkens the sound of ropes slapping in perfect time against the concrete. The rhythm is steady and sure giving me the courage to jump in. Into Brooklyn diners with waiters named Carlos who flirtatiously offer rice pudding as an after thought to the gut busting meal I just ate.  Into the view of a gentrified Harlem from the Starbucks on 118th street where I find myself now. I smile at the kaleidoscope of skin tones passing the window to my left. I giggle a little as the men to my right discuss a friend who’s a “trust fund baby” that needs to get into filmmaking. I consider giving them my information should they need a screenwriter, but I think better of it. Missed opportunity? Who knows, time will tell. Guffawing maniacs cackle out the rhythm. Beautiful men bop to it. Breathtaking women with flip-flops and sandals that flap out the rhythm.  I’m feeling it. Until Tomorrow …

Tomorrow I head back upstate for work that I will gratefully be done with on 7/20. I will get that double handed feeling again I’m sure.  I will attempt to jump in only to be entangled in the ropes of Upstate New York‘s disjointed coldness. I know there is a rhythm there, I just can’t seem to find it.  There are microseconds, while I’m at a recovery meeting, or when I receive a genuine  “hello” or “good morning” but  this doesn’t happen often. I accept it any how because I know that part of finding my rhythm/my place in this new life is being off rhythm for awhile.

It is during the times when I feel “double-handed” or unsafe that I learn the most. Those are the time I use the tools I was given. Those are the times I experience the most growth. So I embrace my double-hands and knock knees as red light indicators that I’m alive and on my way to catching a new rhythm and doper beat, a faster tempo, a deeper groove. I’m on my way to this:

Ok, well maybe not this, but dammit I’ll be close to “1-2-3 Independence!”*

Rosie.

* “1-2-3 Independence” is a double-dutch chant that was used back in my time while jumping.  It was one of my favorites :). You can hear a few more here

Having a moment: The Voice

I’m walking back from State street in Schenectady. The evening is warm, but there’s breeze that justifies the cardigan sweater I wear more for security than warmth. The street is quiet in direct contrast to the busy stirring of addicts attempting to get one more and the parade of tired middle class workers heading in to Stewart’s to get that quart of milk their partner reminded them to get before they came home.

Me, I’m slightly oblivious. Here but not here when this voice, a soprano on a bicycle glide easily by on the opposite side of the street. He (I believe it is a he) pulls his bike to the side to make adjustments. He stops his song only briefly before remounting the bike. I pick up my pace be cause I want to take in more of that voice. I’m not even sure he’s singing in English which enhances my need to draw closer to this beautiful foreign sound. There has not been much sweet about my stay here, so this voice is welcome company. It floats in padded claps from across the street as a feather released to the world from a bird that no longer needed it.

I find myself increasing my pace even more. There is a light. He stops. “Thank God” I think. He stops. We are direct opposites. Him where I want to be, me where he is headed. I gaze at this small man. He is adjusting again, and opts not to remount his bike before crossing the street. The light changes. I stand firm, because I wish to encounter him in a safe place. He is coming toward me. He lets out just a note or two. I am disappointed because I want to be swallowed whole by the sweetness of his singing. I wanted to drown in it. Instead there is a light misting. I’ll take it. As he approaches. His face becomes thinner as if drawn by a sketch artist learning about the function of line. His hands are dainty clasped around the handle bares of the bike. He is in front of me and much to my amazement. He is a woman.

She doesn’t look up at me. She frees a note or two from the bottom of her throat. Then while looking past me she says:

“The Bible is telling the truth. You aren’t listening.”

In three more steps. She and her bike are a memory. Behind me. I unthaw and step carefully across the street, trying to understand what just happened. Trying to remember the voice. Trying to piece together the whole story.

Rosie.

I want to be a part of it …

Operative words: WANT TO BE.

See. To me it seems that the closer I get to New York City, the further away it is. Nothing is lining up the way I thought it would, and that little girl in me that was always taught not to ask for too much or expect much of anything out of life is sitting on a curb picking her nose and mumbling “told you.” And I’ve learned that slapping the shit out of her is not the answer.  Loving the shit out of her is. Helping her to see that there isn’t anything that’s too above her to reach.  Including big bad New York City. No, right now it doesn’t seem like I’ll ever be a part of that mad life that is captured so beautifully and simply on sites like Humans of New York. The little girl says “All the good ideas have already been had. You’ll never come up with anything original. Why bother?”, while the ice cream cone she grasps desperately in her right hand melts. She says I don’t deserve it. My resumé begs to differ.

In three weeks, I’ll make my way from the underbelly of Upstate New York into the New York metropolitan area.  I currently have no job prospects and far less money in my bank account than I’d anticipated. Everyone says: “It’ll work out, you’ll see.” Let’s hope they’re right. Let’s hope that the nightmare complete with me sitting on dingy street corners yammering to myself  donned in a floral print muumuu , wilted coffee cup for peddled change in hand that I have painted in my mind doesn’t actualize, or even worse (at least to me) a long bus ride back to my point of origin, dreams yet again deferred, with the little girl sitting next to me unfurling her thick braids saying “I told you.”

I can be a part of it. I will be a part of it.  You’ll see little girl.  You’ll see.

Rosie.

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If Wendell can, so can I.  (photo courtesy http://www.humansofnewyork.com   check it out. dopeness ensues.)

Truths being told, foreign homes and lonely bones.

I’m rounding the curb into my third week away from home. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to settle in. This is mainly due to the fact that I have been in perpetual motion since I arrived. NYC-NJ-Upstate NY-NJ-NYC-Amherst, MA-NJ-NYC-Upstate NY-Amerst,MA- and finally Upstate NY … again. I have had some AMAZING purpose confirming experiences along the way the most brilliant being the week I spent at the Summer Training Institute hosted by Ping Chong + Company.

The Institute is a week long writing intensive during which Ping Chong, Sara Zatz, Talvin Wilks, and Jesca Prudencio of Ping Chong + Company facilitate workshops, interview, and theatre exercises that instruct the technique used to developed their interview based theatre works Undesirable Elements. The intensive was so much more than I’d bargained for in that it wound up being an exploration into myself and into others in a way that I hadn’t conceived of before.  It deepened my appreciation for the value of a person’s story and challenged me to accept perspectives different than my own. I was allowed to sit into myself as a writer/theatre artist uninterrupted something I had not done in what felt like months. The potential for my work has been broadened as a result. Simply put, it was wonderful. But …

Now I am still. And it is quiet. And I live here …

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Schenectady’s answer to the Bates Motel.  Ok, so I’m exaggerating. I’m a writer goddamit, its what I do. It is different though, and feels more like a squatter’s colony than a place anyone should call home.  There is a weird hodgepodge of folks here. Some are professionals, like me. Some are professionals, like hookers.  There are displaced families, this makes me sad. Then there’s the park. The park with its rusty playground equipment long since abandoned by children. The park with it’s seedy goings on after sun down. The fucking park that is the view from my window hence I always have to keep the blinds drawn! Shitnhellfirefuck!

I know … I know what you’re thinking. “Well why didn’t you ask your company for better accommodations?” or “Why don’t you ask to be moved to a different room?” The answer to question one is: I’m on the bus.  This is the only “extended living” situation that’s on the bus line. Question two? It’s quite in this room. If I roll the dice to be moved elsewhere I may end up floor mates with the aforementioned “professional” and have to deal with all the undesirable elements that come with that situation … but damn wouldn’t that make for a good script! *digresses*

You wanna know the truth?  I miss home. There is still so much up in the air about school, and work, and finding an apartment.  This is scary. I don’t like it. There is not the comfort of my cats meeting me at the door when I get home. There is no Zion busting into my room demanding that I listen to the new rhyme he wrote. My mother is not speaking to me with the glare from her iPad on her face as she peruses weekly sales seculars online.

I’m incredibly lonely and afraid that at any minute this whole thing will come tumbling down on my head and I’ll disappear. Maybe in that fucking park even.  That’s it the park is gonna eat me alive! They’ll find my mangled flesh scattered between the rickety swings and the rotted through chain link fence outside my window.  Ok, I’m doing it again … the exaggeration thing. I’ll stop. Right now. The money will come or it won’t. School will work out or it won’t. Either way, life will go on and I will continue to do my part to follow the path I’ve been put on and keep the faith. More to come … if the park doesn’t swallow me whole ;).

Rosie.

Under Construction

histroic marker onSchgneectady foubdingI have just spent my first week on assignment in a town in upstate New York called Schenectady.  The name sounded vaguely familiar when the company I worked for mentioned it. I wondered briefly was it was near Peekskill New York where Ms. Garrett and the girls spent their time pondering the facts of life.  I was struck by something, not literally although by all accounts this would have been possible, when I initially arrived. The streets were gutted from here to hell all in various states of reconstruction a good amount of the damage likely due to that bad bitch Sandy. The buildings though, are gorgeous old, beautiful, and well made. There seemed to be all manner of culture to dig into at the town’s center.  I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the city even though by broader assessment it seemed to have obvious deeper social issues that no amount of cosmetic repair could fix.

Wanting to know more, I decided to ask the people who lived here. My new co-workers, cab drivers, and pretty much anyone who would talk to me without averting their eye would get my question. “What’s it like here?” The vast majority of the time I’d get a deep sigh or a shake of the head. No one really seemed as taken by the hidden beauty of this joint but me. The concerns were valid and ranged from drugs, crime, and police corruption so bad that the possibility of shutting down their entire department to bring in state police was very real. It made me a little sad for Schenectady a town that seemed, at least from my point of view, to be simmering just under the surface with potential. Then it made me think about the times people come into Charlotte and if I’m having a “fuck Charlotte” kinda day, I do nothing but rumble on and on about how terrible the city is potentially ruining all the newness for the at that point unfettered newcomer.

The truth is I love Charlotte. Its true wealth comes not from its banking core but its human resources. Charlotte is a wellspring of talent and diversity that if tapped into could not only change the way the world views it, but the way Charlotteans view themselves.  Maybe this is the case with Schenectady? Maybe if the people here weren’t so bogged down in the problems of the city they could view it through the new eyes.  Maybe that view could make Schenectadians (please say this is correct nomenclature cause it’s  AWESOME) want to invest in a sociocultural facelift.  Maybe I’m just a hopeless optimist that is gaining new appreciation for her own city via the examination of another. Either way, I’m here for 6 more weeks, I’ll try the tuna plate and keep exploring!

Rosie.

And away we go …

Much of my journey to grad school has felt like this unfortunate witch at 1:09 but, at long last with a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, tears, prayers, yoga, conversations, well wishes, donated funds, donated time, and LOVE. I am FINALLY on my way. Although I’m less than two hours away from boarding the plane it still feels surreal to me.  I imagine it will for the upcoming weeks as well as I attempt to settle into my “new normal”.

I just want to take a second to thank all the friends and family that believed in me and in my talent along the way.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  If I could bottle up people’s belief in me and sell it on the open market, I’d be a millionaire. I wish each of you all the love and light that you can stand.  It is my hope that everything you see in me you see in yourselves. I have amazing people in my life and I am grateful to the source of all that is that I have the awareness today to see that.  I won’t be long winded as the hardest good-byes are still in front of me: My Mother & My Son I didn’t think it was possible to love two people as much as I love them and I hope like hell that I make them proud.

Much love to any and all eyes that read this. Let my story not be apart from your own but rather living proof of what can happen when, you Harness Your Superpower™

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Rosie.

Last born twice.

Me and my Mom have this running joke about how she gave birth to me twice. It is essentially true and ironically the second birth occurred  Mother’s Day weekend of 1992.  The Thursday before Mother’s Day my 16 year-old self had decided that it would be pretty cool to take my Mom and Nana out for Mother’s Day on my own dime. The destination?  Tiffany’s, a restaurant that I had not at the time been too, that was well-known for its ribs and cheesecake.

There isn’t much I remember from that evening at dinner save for the fact that it was my Mom, my Nana,  my oldest nephew, and I that had gone out to eat … and the cheese cake.  I had ordered cheesecake for dessert, a cheesecake that unbeknownst to me,  had ground pecans baked into the crust.  Prior to eating this cheesecake, I remembered that I always felt “funny” when I ate the Little Debbie Brownies with the nuts on them that my older brother would bring me from the corner store. They made my throat itch so badly that I’d stopped eating them all together.

After the first bite of cheese cake that feeling I would get when I ate the Little Debbie cakes started only now it was about ten thousand times worse.  I immediately began to spit the cake into my napkin and told my Mom that I didn’t feel well. She sent me to the car while she paid the tab and gathered my Nana and nephew.  The last thing I remember is getting into the car, taking about 20 doses too many of my inhaler because I felt my throat closing, and then going cold. This would be my last conscious memory for two weeks.

When my Mom got to the car she found me passed out. I was sheet white and my lips were a dusky shade of purple.  Panicked and having little sense of direction, she began to drive around the city of Union, NJ searching for the hospital.  This search lasted approximately ten minutes and by all scientific logic I should have been brain-dead, but this situation would defy any logic you could throw at it.

Upon finding Union Hospital my Mom  pulled into the area on the opposite side of the emergency room. Desperate, she got out of the car flung open the doors and began to scream for help.  Her screaming, I can imagine based on her “normal” conversational octave, was enough to wake the dead and ultimately summon a hospital of doctors, nurses, and therapist to my aid.  I was removed from the car and placed on the ground as the team immediately began to care for what appeared to be a dead kid.

My mom was completely devastated as doctors explained to her my limited odds of surviving the anaphylactic shock I’d endured.  She was advised to call my family members so they could come and say good-bye to me. I was given last rites (it was a Catholic hospital I believe) and my family prepared for the worse. That evening in the waiting room, so I’m told, my Nana held a prayer vigil to end all prayer vigils. She prayed with absolute strangers for the complete healing of their loved ones even though, at least in my case, all hope seemed to be lost.  And just like that I lived through the night … and the next night.

Doctors cautioned my mother about being overly optimistic about my outcome seeing as how the odds for anoxic brain injury due to the delay in my treatment were quite high. These predictions seemed accurate when on Mother’s Day the only thing I kept repeating much to my mother’s horror was “Happy Mother’s Day” probably sounding a lot like Igor. However, over the next few days and weeks I gradually returned to normal (or as normal as I’d ever be again 😉 ).  My first memory? Waking up to a Russian woman who was trying to explain to me her open heart surgery by repeating the words “bad blood” with her thick accent and pointing at monstrous wound on her chest. Good times.

My mother is not a huggin’, squeezin’, excessive sugar givin’  sagely advice dolin’ kind of mom. There are times when I wish like hell she was, but then I think about this “second birth” and how people from the community surrounding the hospital where I’d been sick calling in by the droves to check on “The screaming woman’s daughter”.  I think about the lengths my mother went through to get me adequate care for my asthma even begging a pulmonologist who only saw adults to see me when every pediatrician I’d seen had thrown up their hands. Then I think, here I am,  a living breathing miracle over 22 years after my second birth not only alive and well, but thriving in ways I could never have imagined. Today I give thanks to my praying grandmother and a mother that refused to give up on her sickly little wheezer even during times it seemed the world had.  I love you Ma!

Rosie.

Me and the extraordinary Antoinette Rose

Me and the extraordinary Antoinette Rose

Suspending Disbelief

There is a blissful dismissal of logic that comes with being a child. It enables them to be the gorgeous pile of mush that leaped, curious and unbridled out of their mother’s womb and into a world hell bent on making them into what they “should be”.  It happens earlier and earlier these days, the domestication of children, but if you browse a playground (that is if you can do so without being dubbed a pedophile) occasionally you come across a group of children locked in a heated debate that sounds something like this:

Kid 1: I gone be a super hero when I get big watch.

Kid 2: What kinna stuper hero you go be?

Kid 1: One dat could fly and a-a-and smash big buildins

Kid 2: Nuh uhn

Kid 1: Uh huh!!!

Kid 2: Nuh uhn Nuh uhn

Kid 1 Uh huh Uh huh!!! But you could be my super hero friend tho

Kid 2: I gone be able to to to PUNCH real hard like da Hulk … GRRRRRRRR!!!!

Kid 1:  Les go practice!

Kid 2: Uh K!

And off they go to conquer evil and place bugs in the belongings of unsuspecting peers.  Now, while no one can argue with the sheer entertainment value of hipster babies in skinny jeans with their diapers sogging full of recycled Pabst Blue Ribbon formula; One has to confess that the freedom that comes with being a child over the years has been severely compromised. The openness to have a the free range of emotions that guides the process of becoming an emotionally well adjusted adult is squelched. The result, stuffy assed adults too obsessed with not seeming “thirsty” or “messy” to feel. Some medicate either legally or illegally, still others seek alternate means (e.g. cars, homes, clothes etc.) so that to the outside world will think they are A-OK. Meanwhile they are dying on the inside.

I was and quite often still can be guilty of just this. I suspect this is what lead me back to theatre and writing.  The ability to play and bring to life the characters that are running around in my head without getting the hell side-eyed out of me by society.  Theatre has brought to my life a level of inner freedom, joy and peace that I don’t feel like I’ve ever knew, even during my bittersweet childhood.  The first piece read at a play reading I held last evening is “Reasoning”.  It was the first vignette written for a show called “The Waiting Place” that  I wrote while at UNC Charlotte and is the first complete theatrical piece that I ever had produced. The show gets its name from an excerpt of  “Oh the Places You’ll go by Dr. Seuss.” The passage goes:

“The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or a No

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for wind to fly a kite

or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.”

This past year has contained enough waiting for me to slay father time.  While waiting I’ve tried to remain open and blindly hopeful as a child. I’ve not always succeeded, but I’ve remained aware of the message in the waiting. The same type of awareness that allows for the adult eye to see the beauty and depth to Dr. Suess’s message and long for the comfort of it’s rhyme scheme and ridiculous creatures when the adult world seems to scary to confront. I escape back to the freedom of childhood every time I sit at the key board, sit in a dark cinema or theatre, or pick up a good book waiting for my disbelief to be suspended so my imagination can run hi-knee laps around my mind.

A young woman named Ira Yarmolenko was in the original cast of “The Waiting Place”. Tragically, the May after the show went up she was brutally murdered under circumstances that I still struggle to understand.  In one of our last conversations we sounded a lot like the two children in my above scenario.  We were at the cast party for The Waiting Place” and we almost simultaneously said.  “What are you gonna do next.”  I’m not sure of what I said, but I’m almost sure the path I’m on now wasn’t even in my trajectory at that point. Ira said, “I don’t know.” and smiled a little. In such a care free self-satisfied way that I thought for sure she’d just figured out the meaning of life. Maybe she did, maybe in that moment her disbelief and any fear had been suspended and she was free to just live.

Rosie.

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Ira Yarmolenko and Joshua Ozro Lucero
“The Waiting Place” UNC Charlotte 2007