Sunday, June 28, 2009

the full significance of a character

It's the second of two acts: World War II era, South Pacific. "Peggy the pin-up" takes the USO stage in a sequined red dress. The sparkle of scarlet in contrast with her platinum wig and the soft spotlight and the quintessential period microphone set the scene. We are the "soldiers," the audience. This song is dedicated by the Marilyn Monroe look-alike to us, to them. She wraps her delicate fingers around the microphone's base and as the piano cues, her sultry lips part to shape the words that I can almost entirely sing along to.

I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places...

She slowly swings her hips into the lounge-like performance, maintaining her persona of deliberate sensuality. Peggy croons through the second verse, the third, and in the fourth she unexpectedly falls out of character. Her bright lips fight against the stage smile that she so diligently attempts to hold against the weight of reality. Stepping back from her microphone, she turns away from the audience. It takes longer than a moment for her to regain composure, long enough that the accompanist glances up from her music, concerned and confused, long enough for those of us in the audience to realize that this is not scripted. Her grief ripples through the dark theatre--contagious. I see the silhouettes of other women subtly wiping tears from their cheeks, just as I stretch the sleeve of my cardigan over the inside of my wrist. Pressing it to my face, trying to stifle my own sadness, I blot at tears more slowly than they fall dripping down the front of my dress. The actress uncoils a couple of times, fans her face in efforts to reestablish the order of necessary existence, and eventually turns again to face us smiling. She finishes the song breathy and with a wink. She finishes not as the Army wife we catch a glimpse of, but as "Peggy Jones", starlet, pin-up, community theatre actress-in-role.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I don't have the patience or the focus to write. It certainly isn't that I don't have material. Turn on the news--I have LOTS of commentary. I have traveled to both ends of America this summer. And now that my personal life is slowly settling down, while the world is keeping it's usual, tumultuous pace, I just can't find the desire to express myself in words. The Middle East has temporarily made me a reader instead of a"writer."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Day 1: California dreaming

Yesterday Tennessee fell behind us and beneath us, beneath the clouds. This traveling experience is supposed to be a story, but sitting here in the early morning, overlooking Liberty Canyon, sipping tea, I wonder if I will ever be prepared to write anything worth reading. Shouldn't I be moved by the change of scenery alone? Maybe I should.

I have trouble separating myself from the moment that might otherwise produce an objective story, an image you could close your eyes to and imagine. Instead of focussing on the gentle rain that has since blown over, I am more drawn to the interactions that are completely un-universal, or maybe they are but I won't write about them. Not having a clear assignment also helps to keep things muddled in my head. I haven't been asked to look for one thread among many.

I am sitting in the dining room of my someday mother-in-law's apartment. Out the overstated sliding glass doors, a canyon rolls up to a docile and yellow-dry peak...or ridge? It has become obvious that I am not only unaccustomed to the visual landscape but to the terms best used to describe it. Foliage clings to what little is left of morning showers and the sun is wrestling pouty clouds. It catches bright in the droplets edging spear-shaped leaves and radiates within their tiny domes. Her roses, the one plant type I can identify, are delicately beaded in glassy strands. Somewhere beyond this natural peace, there is also the purr of Los Angeles traffic, which brings me to a meditation on the 405.

I suppose it's common knowledge that LA has notorious traffic, however, I had not considered that I would be driving in it until the rental car keys brought to life our silver seabring. My heart raced a little as a turned out of the parking lot onto Airport, then my stomach climbed into my chest cavity as I entered Century Blvd. in search of the lane for arriving flights. I had previously stranded my entourage at a sunny spot of LAX sidewalk dressed in rows of quintessential hibiscus blooms, which, at least were expectedly picturesque. Upon surveying our towers of luggage and the baby in tow in comparison to swelling lines crowding the rental shuttle loading zone, I opted to gather our car and come back for the others. I hadn't realized how many blocks of city could be claimed by an airport, and as terminals whirled by and the bus carried me further and further away from my party, a frantic breed of insecurity took root in my gut. After waiting and paying and deciding that the lady who insisted an upgrade to an SUV was necessary was in fact wrong, and waiting again to get reassigned to a mid-sized car lot and finally choosing the Chrysler with a roomy trunk, I found myself approaching the exit. As the orange and white arm stretched upward and my anxiety levels accordingly followed suit, my phone rang--Hey Sweetheart. Perfect timing.

[more later, as though this gripping saga will leave you desperate for further details]