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.

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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

 

 

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.