A Trip To Avenue Q

It’s nearing the end of March but I feel like the weather is getting cooler instead of warmer. The calendar in Michigan might say it’s spring but the freezing rain and wintery mix serves as a reminder that Mother Nature does whatever she wants.

I’ve had another enjoyable day. I did some spiritual/ritual work a few days ago and I can feel it working. My spirit had felt split but I’m beginning to feel like a semblance of my old self. I’ve been spring cleaning and purifying myself and my space so that has helped.

I can’t speak for others but one of my favorite things to do is track shipments. I had a shipment, a care package, arriving from Spoon University and Chef’d and I kept tracking it to see where it was while in route. I’m glad I stayed home during the day because the front porch was drenched and the box and the goodies inside would have been soaked.

I did have to eventually leave because I’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks now. I went and saw Avenue Q.

Avenue Q was everything I expected and more. I have “Purpose” and “If You Were Gay” on my everyday playlist but I’d forgotten how great the rest of the songs are. The show was so relevant to my current life and my experiences. I always find a trip to the theatre to be a little cathartic and Avenue Q was no different.

I walked away with hope. Hope is something I haven’t felt in a long time. I had two instances in two days which forced me to look back on my past and evaluate my present. I was offered my old job back (I can’t take it because it interferes with school) and I ran into an old co-worker from that job while at Avenue Q. Both instances reminded me that I have come so far in my personal growth. Avenue Q reminded me that everything in life is only “For Now.” It’s what I needed to hear.


World Theatre Day

“If there is any God in this world, He lives in a theatre” — Kathe Koja, Under The Poppy

I learned that March 27th is considered World Theatre Day. I don’t know why I’m surprised that there’s a day dedicated to the theatre when there’s a day dedicated to π but I’m super stoked that it exists.

I’m blessed that I live in an area that has a great number of production companies and playhouses that stage a variety of things. Because of Detroit theatre I’ve drunk at a cabaret in Nazi Germany, gone down the rabbit hole, fought alongside the barricades, visited a Victorian era brothel, sat down at crazy family dinners, cried over lost Southern Baptist Sissies, chased a phantom through an opera house, lived in NYC during the AIDS epidemic, auditioned for a chorus line, wondered what if, sat around the campfire trying to remember a Simpsons episode, was a female homeless veteran, carried the banner, wondered how I was going to pay last year’s rent and so much more.

So happy world theatre day. Support the arts. Catch a show and lose yourself in the magic and mystery of the theatre.

A Night At The Theater

I try hard to support and attend as much local theater as I can but it’s sometimes difficult due to timing and financial reasons. I was injured the first six weeks or so of this year so I missed a lot of great theater. This week I had some free time so I decided to catch a show. 

There were three I had my eye on but my wallet could only let me watch one. The Billie Holiday show at Stagecrafters was out of my budget after this past weekend. Dinner and shots with Keaton on Wednesday followed by Nana’s birthday celebration blew a hole in the budget. I’m not complaining because I was in need of both outings but it’s limited what I can do this week. As much as I wanted to see Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, I couldn’t justify spending the $23. I still haven’t visited Slipstream’s new space but I wasn’t up for, and really didn’t have the time, to hunt for it. That left me with the Ringwald and their production of Hand To God.

I really appreciate the Ringwald. This is their tenth season but it seems only yesterday I saw the very first performance of The Normal Heart in the basement of a church. Then there was the production of the Vampire Lesbians Of Sodom at a coffee house in Ferndale. This was when the troupe was called Who Wants Cake? and this was long before the move to the Ringwald.

I appreciate the Ringwald because they mount productions of shows that I never thought I’d be able to see. I’ve been able to see Southern Baptist Sissies and The Boys In The Band and August: Osage County and so many more. The show tonight is one that I never thought would play in Detroit so I knew I needed to make time for it. Detroit seems to host either a lot of musicals or a lot of classic traditional plays. I know that, at the Ringwald, I’ll be able to find more Off-Broadway shows.

Ave atque vale

From Encyclopedia Of An Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Profound: There appears to be a string of seemingly profound messages that have grabbed me along the way. The messages may differ in form—aphorism, quote, song lyric—but what they all have in common is that each promoted an embracing view of life; each elicited an immediate yes! feeling in me, which I in turn felt impelled to share with others; each ultimately lost its juice; and each new crush made me feel embarrassed that its simplistic predecessor had actually felt so deep. I believe the first up in the parade was a charm necklace I received when I was about thirteen. It read live love laugh. I liked the cadence, the three one-syllable L words, but mostly the terse, wise command. What more is there? I thought. Live, love, laugh—that’s it. The next one I can remember presented itself to me when I was twenty, during a summer internship at the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather in New York. I was doing grunt work in the research department. I cannot recall the specifics, but what is vivid is this: There was a passage in a packet I was given, no more than a paragraph or two in length, which jumped out at me and aroused a feeling of This is what life’s about, we have to tell people, this is the perfect thing to base an advertising campaign around! I highlighted it, attached an empathic note, and then placed it on my boss’s chair. I was sure that I had saved the day, that I had unearthed some incredibly valuable insight that would have numerous reverberations around the office. When it went unmentioned for a day, then two, then a week, I came to terms with my miscalculation, and felt red-faced and small, tricked by my own naive, impressionable self. And it goes on. Mid-twenties I was infatuated with Kierkegaard’s “Life must be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards.” Age twenty-eight, doing freelance copywriting for Adidas. Listening to the Indigo Girls’ song Watershed. With sudden clarity, I was positive that the chorus was anthem material, and I was jazzed by the idea of imparting this message via a running-shoe commercial. When you’re learning to face the path at your pace every choice is worth your while. My grandiose mission was squelched by a polite Okay, uh-huh. And today, at this market on my existential grid, my philosophical and spiritual capacities intersect in such a way that I am a prime target for—and unabashedly moved by—this Pueblo verse: Hold on to what is good, even if it is a handful of earth. Hold on to what you believe, even if it is a tree which stands alone. Hold on to what you must do, even if it is a long way from here.

I first read those words and encountered this book in 2005. Encyclopedia Of An Ordinary Life is set up like an encyclopedia of all things Amy Krouse Rosenthal. As someone who admires creativity and is always looking for inventive ways to convey a story, I was immediately impressed by what she had done and a little jealous that I hadn’t done it first. By the time I got to the book’s intermission, right before the end of I’s but not quite before the J’s, I was hooked. By the time I got to the entry for profound I knew two things: that Encyclopedia Of An Ordinary Life was one of those profound moments that Amy Krouse Rosenthal had written about and that the book would secure a place in my top 10 list of all-time favorite reads.

Sometimes an author that is unknown to me will write a book and the Powers That Be will make sure that the book finds its way to me, that I’ll read the book and that what I read will become life changing and, sometimes, life saving. Encyclopedia Of An Ordinary Life came to me at the right time and at the right moment. I was a year away from turning thirty and feeling bad that my life hadn’t turned out the way I had intended. I was working at a library and attending classes but still trying to figure out what to do with my life. I was caught up in the shallowness of life, judging myself and my life based upon the strategic placement of my MySpace top 8 and the amount of comments I had received per day. I had an empty hole in my soul because I wasn’t being appreciative of my life. I was so worried about what other people thought about me and trying to live up to the expectations I thought society and the ubiquitous them had for me. Amy Krouse Rosenthal changed my outlook.

Encyclopedia Of An Ordinary Life celebrates the little things, the every day moments that make up a well lived life. The book made me pause and remember and reflect on all the good that was in my life. I was so focused on the larger picture I had forgotten all about the fine details that keep the gears turning. I was almost but not quite at the milestone birthday of three zero but, after reading Encyclopedia Of An Ordinary Life, I somehow knew it would be okay. This book, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, gave me the encouragement to know I could have an ordinary life and still have that life be meaningful. I’ll forever be grateful and that’s why I’m more than a little sad this afternoon. “Why so glum, chum?” you might ask. Well, it’s because Amy Krouse Rosenthal has left the building. The news came down through the publishing world that she had lost her battle with cancer. 

Ave atque vale, Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Thank you for your work and thank you for the inspiration. I hope that you find peace in the next life.

Two Cents: DVD Binge

I watch a lot of movies and my tastes are divergent. Here is my two cents on what I’ve recently watched.

Dick Tracy. This was one of the few movies that I remember seeing at the theater. I’ve been studying comic book movies. Dick Tracy was one of the first. I remember how excited I was to see it because Madonna is in it. The film has not aged well. Most of the character portrayals are over the top. Warren Beatty was too old to play Dick Tracy. Al Pacino and all the rest of the rogues gallery are hidden under tons of makeup that look like cheap Halloween masks. Madonna gets a bad rap as an actress but she really sells it as Breathless Mahoney. Madonna and Mandy Patinkin make the movie enjoyable because the music still holds up.

Shane. My dad is a huge Western fan so I vaguely remember watching Shane when I was a kid. I wanted to watch it because Logan is heavily influenced by Shane. I know that Shane is a well regarded film but it’s too slow for me. I found it boring.

The Searchers. Another Western, this time courtesy of my film class. It’s a John Wayne classic and it has Natalie Wood in it. I enjoyed it but I think it’s probably over hyped. The American Film Institute ranked it #12 of the 100 greatest American films. There’s no way that’s possible in my opinion.

Trainspotting. There was a period of manic depression around 1995/1996 that lasted almost a year and a half where I probably watched almost every movie released in theaters. Trainspotting fell in this era and I remember watching it. The sequel comes out in a few weeks so I wanted to reacquaint myself. I’ll be honest and admit I’m surprised how well this film has held up. It’s probably because the tragedy of heroin use is universal. And my crush on Ewen Bremner (Spud) is still strong after all this time.

The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. I recently bought this on Blu-ray and I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to watch it. It’s probably in my top 5 of all-time favorite films. If I had a dollar for ever time I have watched this movie I’d be a millionaire. As much as I love this movie I don’t know what my mom was thinking when she let me watch it the first time or the fourth time or the twentieth time. The subject matter flew over my innocent seven year old head but, essentially, the movie is about prostitutes and their Madame, Miss Mona (played by Dolly Parton). A television watchdog reporter turns the camera on Miss Mona and the Chicken Ranch. The sheriff, Ed Earl (played by Burt Reynolds) asks Miss Mona to lay low until things cool off and she agrees until she remembers that the Chicken Ranch traditionally plays host to the winner of the Texas A & M and the University Of Texas Thanksgiving game. I have to talk about the post-game locker room scene. There’s often a discussion among LGBT folk around the subject of when we knew. The fact that I was watching a movie about a whorehouse went over my head because I wasn’t even sure what a whorehouse was but that locker room scene was the definite moment when I knew. I didn’t have a name for it and I wasn’t sure what it was but those athletic guys in their football jerseys and jockstraps stirred something within me. We didn’t even have the unedited version. We had a recorded from ABC version complete with classic 80’s commercials. We had a crappy VHS version of the film that I wore out with multiple viewings. I wasn’t able to see the really good stuff until I turned 13. And here’s the thing about The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. I know the plot by heart. I can quote dialogue when I’m watching. I should be impervious to the emotional wreckage this movie causes but I cry like a baby each viewing. When the girls start singing “Hard Candy Christmas” and the bus turns down the road I lose it. Fuck, I’m tearing up writing about it.

Two Cents: Disney Renaissance

With the upcoming live action version of Beauty And The Beast opening next weekend, I wanted to revisit the 4 Disney films that are considered the start of the Disney Renaissance.

The Little Mermaid (1989). My family wasn’t much to go to the movies unless my brother and I begged my dad and cajoled my mom. If I unpack that I’d probably figure out the reason why I now go to the movies as much as I can. I didn’t see The Little Mermaid when it came out but I practically wore out my older brother’s VHS copy whenever I would watch my nephews. It’s not only one of my favorite Disney movies but it’s one of my favorite all-time movies. I found a parallel with Ariel watching the humans and wanting to be part of their world to the young kid reading in secret about the LGBT community and wanting to be part of that world. And, seriously, who doesn’t love Ursula?

Beauty And The Beast (1991). There are things that I either ignored/dismissed in my previous viewings that I couldn’t suspend this time around. If the Beast’s curse becomes permanent when the Beast turns 21 and he’s been cursed for 10 years then that means he was 11 when the witch cursed him. Who does that? Every 11 year old, prince or pauper, is going to be a little snarky and surly to an old woman showing up on their doorstep in the dead of night. And where was/is his parents? I have the cynicism of an adult when watching now. I still love the music though. Angela Lansbury singing the title track is a wonder. But, honestly, I don’t know how this film was nominated for Best Picture. It’s a good film but not good enough to be nominated as one of the top 5 best films of 1991.

Aladdin (1992). As an adult I identify with Aladdin. I often find myself singing the lyrics to “One Jump Ahead”. “One jump ahead of the breadline. One swing ahead of the sword” is the truth when I’m trying to adult. I think Aladdin holds up well. The story is still gripping and Jafar, especially after he gets the lamp, is downright frightful. Robin Williams is at top of his game voicing the Genie. My only disappointment was a homophobic joke tossed in.

The Lion King (1994). This is the only one of the Disney Renaissance era films I actually watched in the theater. I watched it with my cousin at the Grundy theater and cried when Mufusa died. I’d forgotten how dark The Lion King is. I didn’t enjoy it. I found it slow paced. In my memory I thought Rafiki was featured more but he barely shows up. The music is on point though because Elton John is timeless.

Two Cents: Logan

I had too much on my mind so I decided to catch a late matinee of Logan. I’m a huge X-Men fan and I think Logan was a proper finale to the Wolverine and Professor Charles Xavier character while setting up a new, refreshing direction to the X-Men franchise. 

I love how the X-Men movies are filled with self-deprecation. This particular film is set in the near future, 2029. There are some funny bits featuring the comic books. And there’s a great throwback/reference to the great western, Shane.

I’m curious about where the X-Men franchise goes from here. X-Men: Apocalypse ended with the setup of the Weapon X program and Logan heavily features the end of the Weapon X program so I don’t know what happens next.