The Artist and The Living Wage … (yup we actually need money.)

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I’m about a year and a half into my grand decision to abandon my solid career for my dreams. Everyone loves a dreamer, right? And because of this I have the pleasure of reveling in and mentally supporting myself with, atta-girls, “likes”, favorites and retweets, and the affirmations of minor/major accomplishments. Since none of the aforementioned goods are legal tender in these United States, I’ve dived into the bottomless abyss of student loan debt. Now, the end is in sight. The end meaning my ability to live off college loans (which has been FAR from ideal) and be as ambitious as I wanna be in my artistic endeavors. In short. Shit is about to get real and I’m about to have to hustle in ways I hadn’t even began to imagine. I am fucking terrified.

I’d watched the artistic hustle of friends over the years as I nestled securely in the bosom of my bi-weekly paycheck and did theatre as my low/no paying side gig. I admired my friends who were full time artists greatly, supported them (with actual spendable money) when I could, and doubted my ability to support myself in the same way.  After all, how could one endure the constant disappointment and inconsistency that comes with being an artist trying to make a living wage? Even Oprah supposedly has a tough time paying artists :/. This could be because despite our undeniable contribution to the culture and day to day life in this country, artists in American society are greatly undervalued. Art programming is often the first to be cut when it’s time to tighten the old proverbial belt, ironic considering  the presence of thriving artists is a key indicator of a civilized society ( … wait, now it makes sense). Nonetheless, my admiration morphed into inspiration and I eventually moved forward into a life as a full time writer.

Though I leapt into the safety net of a grad program (an opportunity not afforded to or affordable for most artists … even me). I have made a few forays into marketing my art and myself for profit. The results have ranged from moderately successful to dismal failure. The plain truth is, I’m not good at it, at least I don’t think I am. It takes a great deal of tenacity (which I have) and the ability to endure humiliation (which I don’t have … yet). Case in point:

I was visiting my old job (a place I love/d) to visit and to rally the troops for what was at the time my second crowd funding campaign (*gag*). I felt safe enough in this environment to solicit because I knew these folks, while not rich they had fairly stable sustainable income, and I knew they believed in me. All was well and I was about the business of rounding up folks interested in donating when one person, who shall remain nameless but he knows who he is, chirped in the most insidiously shady of manners …

“Oh, you’re here collecting money again.”

I immediately felt like a cheap, worthless, moocher which I know on the conscious level of “his shit not mine” was a “choice”, but nonetheless it was incredibly hard to move on through the campaign after that. Every time I’d post or talk about it I heard him in the back of my mind.

“Oh, you’re here collecting money again.”

It was excruciating fucktard macabre dance in my mind to the tune of …

BUT

I got through it, and have since done yet another crowd funding campaign (*gag*). I’m learning the business of being an independent artist, which there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of forgiveness or support for in this crazy crazy world, but what’s my other choice? Quitting? Well fuck that. I was born to do this thing I do with words and it took me too long to figure out that it was my talent to hightail it away now. I’ll look for support where I can find it (while trying to keep a modicum of self respect). I’ll engage in employment that keeps me knee deep in what I love, and for what it’s worth I’m a pretty beastly grant writer. In short, to Mr. “Oh, you’re here collecting money again.”, your living and psychological manifestation, and any subsidiaries that may exist: Fuck you. I’m a writer. I deserve to be one, and I deserve a living wage because what I do matters. Try watching tv, movies, the news and any of the mundane activities of your everyday life in a world without us.

Ok, that was harsh. But seriously, if you don’t “get” artists being paid, it’s fine. You have a right to not care/contribute to their success, but at the very least, don’t shit on them with words or deeds. If you love artists and want to see them succeed SUPPORT them … with money. If my broke ass can do it, there’s a good chance you can too. It’s pretty easy set aside a tolerable amount of cash you can live without each week (it can seriously just be $5) take that money and donate it to a crowd funding campaign or buy an artist you know a meal or help pay for printing for a writer, buy a gift card to an art store for a painter. Little things mean ALOT and really fuel the fire when doubt enters to drain the creative process.

To those who actively support independent artist or the arts in general. THANK YOU. You make grace, beauty, and the artistic process possible.

Welp, I’m done. I hope you’ve been afforded a little understanding of what it’s really like to be on my side of the creative world and if you’re here with me: Rock On!!!

Below is a film that is essentially this post acted out in the world. It was directed by classmate and sisterfriend Carol Garlick. She’s an amazing screenwriter and human being. You will know her name. Oh yes, you will know her name 🙂

Rosie.

Having A Moment: The Unsolicited Blessing

The Unsolicited Blessing

witnessed by Stacey Rose

An act in one play.

Personae Dramatae:

Mother

Little Girl

First Lady of the Church of Self Righteousness Assumption

Setting:

Osborne Terrace, Newark, NJ (Outside Newark Beth Israel Hospital)

Time:

Early Evening

(A braless young MOTHER no older than 23 labors her way down Osborne Terrace toward Newark Beth Israel Hospital.  Her face is the struggle. At her hand is a tiny LITTLE GIRL, no older than two.  They both have braid extensions that look to have been in about a month too long. They are, to be sure, clean. Their clothing, however, seems to have come from the nearest five and dime. The little girl’s sundress is too large. The straps are continuously falling off her shoulders. Mother’s top is being stretch to it’s ultimate tolerance with the swelling of her expectant belly. Enter coming from the opposite direction THE FIRST LADY OF THE CHURCH OF SELF RIGHTEOUS ASSUMPTION. She is a petite feminine woman.  Her hair is cut in a smart cropped salt and pepper natural. Her clothing and accessories are the epitome of class and style. If one were to drift closer one would probably catch the aroma of an expensive Eau de toilette likely purchased at the nearest Lord and Taylor on credit. The three intersect. )

First Lady: Look at you!

Mother:  Hi.

First Lady: Awww she’s adorable!

 Mother:  Thank you.

First Lady: Heyyyy Baaaaby!

Little Girl: –

First Lady: How old is she?!

Mother: Two.

First Lady: Oh my god! And you’re  already having another one?! Ain’t that somethin’?

Mother: –

First Lady: Where’s your daddy at baby?

Little Girl: –

Mother: At work. He at work.

(beat.)

First Lady: … oh. okay. okay.

(The first lady takes her hands and places them on the mother’s belly and begins to pray and unintelligible prayer. She moves her hands on to the little girl’s forehead and concludes the prayer.)

First Lady:  Alright now. Y’all have a blessed day.

Mother: You too.

Little Girl: –

(Mother and little girl head in the opposite direction of The First Lady down Osborne Terrace. They may never  see each other again.  Amen.)

Fin.

Unity Mobs and other side effects of xenophobia.

It was the 80s. Cyndi Lauper was reppin’ Cap’n Lou Albano hard.  The then WWF was in its golden age and was the happy ending to many children’s (and adults) Saturday morning brain freeze. There were the rivalries. Oh, the rivalries! Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Superfly Jimmy SnukaRandy “Macho Man” Savage vs. The Ultimate WarriorGeorge “The Animal” Steele vs. any turnbuckle he encountered. The rivalries that really made you lick your chops though … I’m talkin’ the ones that would unite the neighborhood bully with the lithe bookworm whose ass he’d just kicked the Friday afternoon before; were the USA vs. the “Evil Foreigner” grudge matches .  The USA would usually be represented by the Sergeant Slaughters or  The Hulk Hogans of the world. The  “Evil Foreigner” would be represented by some one like say, The Iron Sheik. The shit felt real as hell too. It felt like the world was going to end and evil would run rampant throughout the planet if Sergeant Slaughter got snared in The Sheik’s deadly Camel Clutch.

This sort of sentiment is not new and it echoes throughout American life. It’s like the US can’t find shit else to unite about except a tragedy reigned down upon our innocent souls by a real or imagined demonic boogie men (exclusively from somewhere else, because you can’t honest and for true be American and evil simultaneously) or our hatred of other countries/races because of their refusal to bow down to our natural superiority.  I don’t say this from an “above it all” place either.  I was sitting on my couch, crying uncontrollably, and singing God Bless America on September 12th 2001 like many other Americans. As far as I was concerned, on that day, “W” coulda rendered the entire middle east dust. The fact is, at that time,  that level of violence on American soil was extremely foreign, at least to my generation. It felt like a complete violation of who we were and something had to be done, right  then, right there,  no matter the cost. America … FUCK YEAH.

Over ten years of hindsight has removed the rose-colored glasses that allowed us to continue the view of America as “Police Officer of the World” … well  some of us anyway. Many now recognize that we  may need to sweep around our own proverbial front porches before we go about taking on the liberation and democratization of nations around the globe.  However, lately when it seems every week POTIS is headed to another American city to give a speech of condolence and empowerment, the Unity Mob mentality seems to have grown and mutated (with the help of social media of course) into this beastly caricature of stock American values that rages like a new pimple for about a week, but is salved by a healthy dose of baby KimYe coverage.

As horrible as I felt about what happened in Boston, I could not help but cringe while listening  to the post capture rhetoric that began to sound like Oscar speeches. It’s fantastic that they caught this guy alive, and that we’ll  hopefully be able to peek into the mind of people like him to find out why they carry out horrific attacks like the one at the marathon, but does there need to be an exaggerated sense of celebration in a major American city being on lock down (to the tune I’ve heard of $33 million a day?!)  There were Lock Down Parties.  Jesus M. H. Christ what does it all mean?

At this point, I’ve become a little unpatriotic to some, sacrilegious to others,  and probably both to Newt Gingrich who would probably call me an ungrateful black slut if I ever made it onto his radar, but I would really like to know where the extended man hunts are for the crime trodden streets of the inner city of Chicago? Do they  not occur because you can’t encapsulate the issues of the inner city into a neatly boxed media package that can be consumed and shat out in under  a week? Where are the Unity Mobs when our kids are being fed directly from schools into prison by a sub par education system? Where are the Unity Mobs when young black and latino teens are privy to being target by NYPD on a whim because the police have carte blanche to determine who “looks” like a criminal? Is it that these segments of America not worth getting fired up over to  the angry masses?

Or are they so busy warming up their typing fingers for the new big “it” tragedy? Maybe they’re somewhere wracking their brains trying to figure out where the dreadful folks who do this type of thing come from? Well I’ve got a theory. I believe they come from Us. Yes, the great old US of A that has been creating sociological problems and ignoring the repercussions since inception.  We made these monsters, and instead of chasing them down desperately trying to connect them to the “other” via religion or race, maybe we should be trying to figure out and take action to heal the parts of our system that is creating such beautiful minds with a propensity for death and destruction.

Rosie.

Martyr May I.

The conversation usually goes like this:

Person: Wow! Congrats on getting into NYU! That’s an incredible opportunity.

Stacey: Aww, Thank you. I’m really excited.

Person: Is your son going?

(Here, as we say in theatre, is a “beat”. The length of the “beat” usually depends on how many times I’d been asked that question within 48 hrs. The extent to which I go to explain my choice is directly proportional to the level of maternal guilt I’m feeling that day, but it all boils down to this:)

Stacey: No, He’s not going (… insert excessive rambling here as needed.)

(Next, the reaction. It varies and is typically some combination of: 1. A “beat”, some type of facial grimace, followed by an expulsion of air … usually from the mouth and then 2: Oh … )

Person: … who is he staying with?

Me: …my mom.

(Now, the conversation either ends here or rambles on in some awkward dance between my guilt and the other person’s judgement/the judgement I perceive them to have, then dies an even more awkward death in pregnant silence.)

This post is not an explanation of why my son will not be moving to New York with me. This post is about the fact that this question is always the first to be raised with mothers pursuing lofty goals.

I have watched my mother, and countless other mothers “sacrifice”, martyr their peace, happiness, and in some cases their physical existence for children who didn’t benefit one way or the other from said sacrifice. In some cases this “sacrifice” was ultimately the child’s downfall. Why? Because all that additional motherly love was enabling, that’s why. Mothers and specifically single mothers have for far too long worn the badge of the martyr, forfeiting any dreams or potential they had before they gave birth. It’s as if your goals and desires for yourself can’t exist in the same space as parenthood, or if they can, those goals and desires had better damn well be minimal and involve a papoose. (I just pictured my 5’8” 155lb 14 year-old strapped to me as I navigated Washington Square and died a little.)

Ye verily I say unto all the mothers who think they have to give up happiness and personal satisfactions in order to be a “good” mother … fuck all of that … in its entirety. I am a 37 year old woman with a lot of life left (hopefully), and a lot of shit I want to do. I love my son immensely and will not cease to handle my basic parental responsibilities, while also continuing to do everything within my power to guide him into a successful life. That, for me, is what parenthood is about. I refuse to give up my life as a testament to what a wonderful mother I am. I would rather live a full and purposeful life that can serve to inspire and empower my child into a better way of living. My pursuit of a full and purposeful life just happens to involve me being away from my kid for a while. This is not an ideal situation, but it is not Life’s job to serve up ideal situations. Besides, I’m pursuing graduate education for baby Jesus’s sake, not smoking crack. (Unfortunately, the latter in the eyes of some, seems to be a more acceptable reason for a maternal hiatus :/.)

Then there’s the shitty male/female double standard. If I were a father, even a single father, I don’t think anyone would give a second thought to me taking off to school or even better enlisting with the military and leaving my son with family. In fact, it’d be encouraged. This, in the eyes of some, makes a father joining the army, potentially being deployed to war, and killed a better choice than me, a mother, pursing higher education. I don’t blame fathers. Hell, I don’t even blame the people who ask me this question. It’s kind of just the way things are. We exist in a patriarchal society where the man goes out hunts the meat, clubs us over the head then …

Maybe you think I’ve written this assuage my guilty conscious and maybe you’re right. Maybe I don’t give a fuck* what anyone thinks. Maybe I do, but I shouldn’t because it’s my life. Square biz, I don’t know a parent who doesn’t have regrets about choices they’ve made raising their children. I know I will have regrets a plenty, possibly with the decision to leave him in Charlotte for two years topping the list. Time will inevitably reveal the decisions that will land my ass in a shitty nursing home per my son’s request. However, If I look at my parenting job so far I can honestly say the danger of me stewing in my own juices while medical staff is on break is pretty remote. All I can do is check with my gut, check with Sonny Jim, and pray for the best

Rosie.

*Please read the linked article ad nauseum. You will either become completely reckless, stop being afraid of what people think and live, or both. Shouts to KNKYTHT for sending it to me, it was the highlight of my week.

Physician Disagrees.

ImageIn 2002 I sat for the clinical exams for my RRT (Registered Respiratory Therapist) credential. The easiest part, at least for me, were the straight forward questions on the shit that could easily be found Egan’s Fundamentals of Respiratory Care textbook. The shitty part, and the part ironically that would tend to foreshadow what my career in respiratory care looked like, were the clinical simulations. The clinical sims walked you through theoretical scenarios. Some of the patients had blatantly obvious problems like pneumonia, COPD, asthma the stuff you knew you were signing up for as a therapist. It got fuzzy when babies with ambiguous symptoms came rolling through your virtual ED and all you could rely on were your clinical assessment skills. So, Patient Q came barreling through the door with a persistent 3 week dry cough, low-grade fever, and other symptoms that could mean everything yet nothing.

I’d go through a specific symptom, apply the solution that I thought was correct, and would receive the heart stopping response of:

PHYSICIAN DISAGREES

By the 3rd or 4th “disagreement” I thought for sure that I’d killed my virtual patient and shat away the hundreds of dollars that I’d spent on the exam. As it turns out my patient survived because of the choices I made. I walked out of the H&R block testing center fist pumping like 80s Judd Nelson. Now let’s apply that to my real life in respiratory therapy shall we:

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve had an opinion that was the “right answer” in the direction of patient care but was summarily ignored by the physician charged with caring for the patient. The difference in real life is that lives will not be miraculously saved by a test that happens to know which care plan is better. In fact …

*Bombshell Alert*

People get very sick and or die because of physician pride, incompetence, or apathy. I wish I could say that I haven’t seen it as many times as I have in this now almost 14 years as a therapist, but it’s true. When a physician would rather Google how to operate a particular type of life support rather than ask the real live person on duty who has experience with the equipment how to proceed (yes, this happened … to ME), then there is a major problem with how the healthcare team functions and the real losers in this game are, as always, patients. Do I blame all physicians? No.

I blame the set up of the healthcare “system”. Doctors are all too often placed in a position where they cannot be vulnerable, where they can’t say “I don’t know” or appear not to, hell where a patient with no medical knowledge whatsoever can waltz into their office and tell them what to prescribe. This type of system sets doctors up to be on the defensive. They have the image of the authoritarian on all things medical to uphold after all. It’s a sucky conundrum and a large chunk of the reason why I didn’t proceed to medical school.

The only solution I see in this age of information where the patient truly is more well versed about their disease process than the doctor, is a more team based approach where the doctor is still at the helm, but know when to trust the advice of specialist that have seen certain things a time or two more that she/he has. I’ve seen this set up before, mainly at teaching hospitals, and from what I’ve experienced it works. Granted, it then places the responsibility for competency in the lap of staff, but I’d rather have my opinion respected and expected than to just be a “knob turner” at the mercy of a doctor who is burned out, apathetic, and just doesn’t want to be called anymore. Mutual respect to the benefit of those we are charged to care for: Is that too much to ask? Me thinkest not.

Rosie.

fat and insecure: egads i’ve been discovered!

A few minutes ago I was accosted on my own facebook page by a gentleman that felt he just had to respond to the following post:

photo copy

I believed the photo to be “cute” and by no means did I intend it to be a declaration of war on men who are not into big women. However this gentleman, whose name I won’t withhold because fuck it — he’s bold enough to pop up on my facebook wall talking unsolicited shit he’s good money with getting written about — did:

dumbass

I will address the rest of this post to Mr. Johnson, the kingly sage of his generation:

Mr. Johnson,

I have been alive long enough, and experienced enough to know that men like what they like and for that matter women like what they like.  And honestly, it is down right pathetic that there are still living breathing men with a shred of intelligence that believe that women stake their entire self view on what a man thinks about them.

… wait, there are those women, I just don’t happen to be one. No, Mr. Johnson the things that I say to make me feel better about myself when I find the old self esteem ship is sinking are usually related to:

1. The dopeness of my theatre artistry.

2. My phenomenal skills as a parent.

3. And the fact that I’m an honest to god “decent” human being who doesn’t see the need to maliciously belittle others to feel okay with myself.

I’ll cop to it Mr. Johnson, what you said hurt my feelings. I will not put on a brave face, and hide behind wit.  It was a throw back to play grounds and that shitty year I had in the sixth grade, but I will let your words stay right where they are because they are a reminder that I am bigger than that.

Yes Mr. Johnson, I’m  BIG.  A fat woman, if you will. I’m about two and a half of your girlfriend. I’m also BIG in mind, BIG in spirit, and BIG in aspirations (usually achieving whatever I put my mind to), so indeed there are going to be a lot of men I’m too BIG for in many more ways than just the physical. And I am quite alright with that. I bid you and all 100lbs of your girlfriend, adieu.

Rosie.

You B**** You!

*the following is a reflection of my experience as a triple minority (black/fat/female), any similarities to your experience(s) or that of your loved ones is purely coincidental. Yes, I do realize that my views may be irrational to some, but this here is my blog … I write what the hell I want.

Some folks make we want to draw the purse strings of my human decency closed … Around their neck … Until they are dead. Case in point (and keeping it one hundred, the reason for this post): My dearest friend Eric and I arrive at a high end apartment complex on the high end side of town. We unemployed/lower middle class plebes actually have a friend that lives there. Upon entering the building, walking past an intense argument between a young Asian gentlemen and a female building attendant bickering over the gentleman’s squatters rights, we approach the elevator. The doors open. Dog. BIG dog. REALLY big dog, one of those sombitches that could stand taller than a human being. I don’t know dogs (i.e. breeds, temperaments, blah, blah, blah), but I do know my history with dogs. It’s dicey at best.

Upon seeing the beast my knee jerk reaction came in words:

“That’s the biggest dog I’ve ever seen in my life.” (a slight exaggeration, but it was preeety damn close to accurate.)

Then came an unexpected rebuttal:

Really?” (dripping with sarcasm)

Pan up from the annoying shoe gloved feet, to slender frame draped work out couture, to JINORMOURS diamond encrusted left ring finger, to almond colored skin, to oval face, to the jenkiest weave I’ve seen in three months.

again, in that bitchesque tone she says:

“Really?!”

As if I were her child and I was carrying on over some non-existent ghost under my bed.

“Yes, really.” I managed.

“He’s a Golden.” she quips …

…like I should have known that at birth, when I honestly didn’t give a fuck what breed it was and didn’t in fact own a pet of the furry variety until I was 22. It wasn’t long before I realized that the dog should have been the least of my worries.  It’s master had already proven herself to be a bigger bitch than it could ever dare to be.

Already exasperated by a day full of assorted strangeness we board the elevator.

“Two, please.” I says.

*blank stare* (I mean blank fucking stare, as if I’d been speaking Mandarin.)

Now, regular well adjusted human beings on an elevator standing next to the buttons will often extend the courtesy of pushing the button for the floor(s) others will be heading to. This bitch was not a regular well adjusted human being. The dog actually had a better shot at being one.

“Oh, I don’t work here.”

In that instant I became more disgusted with her than I had been with any human being in a very long time.  Her snobbish tone and don’t-you-know-who-the-fuck-I’m-is glare made me want to break something … like her face, her fingers, her legs, well you get it.  And I’ll be straight up and say that it’s mainly ego that made me so furious with her.  Nobody likes to be belittled openly or covertly and this is what this chick was doing.  Somehow the circumstances of this … woman’s life had lead her to believe that extending common courtesy was grossly beneath her, and I’ll go further to say she believed that my friend and I were beneath her.

And … I’ll go even further in my attempt to be honest with myself about the situation and say her impudence carried an extra sting because she was black.  There is an implied sense (at least in my black experience) that we are all in this together.  This implied sister/brotherhood was grossly violated, and I resented the hell out of her for it.  I’d come to expect this type of behavior out of certain types of white folk, but I’d venture to say that even their sense of superiority wouldn’t have prevented them from pushing  a damn elevator button for another human being.

During that small exchange  some small part of me knew that I probably had more grace and character in my toe nails than she had in her entire self-centered frame. Me having the common sense that God and my Nana gave me I knew the truth, but my ego didn’t.   Thus this passive aggressive post, because sometimes I just have to allow myself to be fully angry. Now I have been, and since carrying resentments are like eating rat poison and expecting your enemy to die, I’ll let it go. I’ll move forward knowing that in the not so distant future when I am a filthy rich and famous writer standing by the buttons on the elevator of my exclusive condominium complex, when someone boards and says:

“Two, please.”

I shall not hesitate to have my well trained, denim clad chimp press 2. 😛

Rosie.

ok … I’m done for real.