Today on The Wednesday Re-Blog (Maybe I’m calling it this now? I don’t know. beta testing and whatnot), I want to share with you some words from my friend Alexandra Silber and introduce you to the beautiful soul who writes them.
I met Al in the fall of 2012, when we appeared together in the American premiere of Love Story: The Musical in Philadelphia. She played The Ali MacGraw role, and I played the doctor who broke the news (spoilers? I can’t help you).
It’s the only show we’ve ever done together, and I haven’t seen her since we closed just before Halloween of that year. But her life has continued to make an impact on mine.
I started to write her a letter a few years ago to tell her what her life and work have meant to me over the last almost eight years, but I can’t finish it. I don’t know why.
Meantime, “London Still” is her blog. This is where you should start. (and follow her on Twitter @alsilbs and Instagram @alsilbs of course!)
– Trying to [falsely] control anything. [Because literally LITERALLY, we cannot control a single actual thing other than our own responses to life right now. And let’s face it: sometimes not even that.]
– Caring what others think. [I’m not gonna wear pants and you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care if YOU care. And I suspect you’re probably not wearing pants either so don’t come for me, Karen]
– Judgment (of self and of others). [*GIANT SIIIIIIGH*] A big one. What do I care what people are posting on the internet? What business is it of mine if someone feels good and productive and contributory singing sad songs at their piano on Instagram Live, or making videos about frothy coffee? Who cares if others are doing a Zoom play reading, or organizing a gigantic Google Hang reunion, or interviewing their friends on YouTube for charity or even just for fun? If it isn’t your vibe, that’s okay. Decline to tune in. If it makes them feel better right now, good for them. Let them do their thing. I (and you) have the agency to decline to participate. You don’t have to tune in! You don’t even have to know it’s happening! USE that wonderful mute button and revisit that follow when the Pandemic is over.
THE OLDER I GET, the more I realize there are things I remember and things I don’t. What I also have begun to realize is that the list of each of those things is in somewhat of a constant state of flux. It all depends on where I am in my life at a particular moment.
Is there a string of thoughts that leads me to a particular memory? Or does a smell, sight, or sound trigger something in my embarrassingly hollow skull that takes me for a “walk down Amnesia Lane,” as Mr. Keating once put it?
Sights and sounds and smells and all the rest of it should not be underestimated. They may lie dormant for twenty-five years, but each one of them can (collectively or individually), find a way to hit you right between the eyes with a memory you thought was put to bed long ago.
Then, there are the more obvious memories that may have finally learned how to sleep for three hundred and sixty-four days of the year, making an appearance on the one day that seems determined to never accept its place as ordinary ever again.
That’s a day that asks you to look around where you are. It’s a day that asks you what you want to do now, in whatever time we have.
I remember being old enough to learn about President Kennedy’s assassination and asking my parents where they were when it all went down. I wanted to know what they were doing. Their stories of that one day fascinated me. As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to see how I’ve been accumulating those kinds of moments in my own life.
I was in detention with Mr. C for fighting the day Ronald Reagan got shot.
I was taking a Geometry exam when the space shuttle Challenger exploded.
I was lying in my bed with Malisa and our daughter Mikaela when our third-floor apartment shook pictures off its walls and slid our furniture around.
Someone had just blown a hole in Oklahoma City’s heart.
Can it be twenty-five years? Of course it can. It has been. Funny. And not.
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma had James Rocco at the helm at the time. He felt there was something the theater community could do, and he was right. We needed a fundraising concert. So, we had one.
The stars came in from all over, and it was a whirlwind. One rehearsal with Joel Levine and the OKC Philharmonic and then the show. It was a long day.
I was a local artist, invited to participate by Jamie, and I was just thrilled to be able to do something. With a newborn only twenty days old on the day it happened and a wife recovering, I had been unsure about how I could be of any use.
During the rehearsal for the concert, many of us sat in the theater’s balcony to watch the “show” as each singer ran through their number with the orchestra. They were all so wonderful, one after the next.
Then, Sandy Duncan took center stage.
“Testing. Is it working? Oh, I can hear it now, thanks! Hi, everybody!!”
We were chatting about nothing in the balcony. I was probably sitting back with my feet up on the seats in front of me.
“Okay, you want to try it once or twice?” she asked. “Okay, perfect! Here we go!”
She bowed her head slightly to prepare, then raised her head to signal she was ready. My eyes locked onto her. It suddenly became perfectly crystal-clear to me that Sandy Duncan had left the building, and Peter Pan had just landed on center stage.
We were all about to take flight.
I have a place where dreams are born,And time is never planned. It’s not on any chart, You must find it with your heart.Never Never Land.
“Where is this place where dreams are born?” my heart asked, as Peter began.
It might be miles beyond the moon, Or right there where you stand. Just keep an open mind, And then suddenly you’ll find, Never Never Land.
You’ll have a treasure if you stay there, More precious far than gold. For once you have found your way there, You can never, never grow old.”
I suddenly realized everyone had gotten quiet and was beginning to lean forward a little. I was sitting in the fourth row of the balcony, dead center, hypnotized by this amazing creature before me, before us all. I can remember the feeling now.
And that’s my home where dreams are born, And time is never planned. Just think of lovely things. And your heart will fly on wings, Forever in Never Never Land.
“Take me to this place, Peter,” my heart pleaded. “I want to stay there. I want to live there!”
You’ll have a treasure if you stay there, More precious far than gold. For once you have found your way there, You can never, never grow old.
And that’s my home where dreams are born, And time is never planned. Just think of lovely things. And your heart will fly on wings, Forever in Never Never Land.
There was a moment of time, just after the song finished, when there was silence. It was probably less than a second long, but I lived a lifetime in that moment. Tears were streaming down my face as they are right now as I write this in remembrance. I am in that moment again right now, and I can go there whenever I like, whenever I want to, whenever I need to.
Then, the entire theater erupted in applause. Every duty being performed in the rush to prepare the theater for this special concert stopped, and those performing the duties clapped and cheered, grateful for the opportunity to leave the sadness for just a moment and fly to a place where dreams are born and time is never planned.
Sandy Duncan’s performance of “Neverland” at a rehearsal for what was (up until that time, God help us) the saddest collective occasion I’d ever been a part of as an artist changed my world forever.
Sometimes, we need individual healing moments and sometimes we need collective healing moments. Once in a while, both of those moments can happen at the same time.
This moment was/is a big one for me. It’s what I’m choosing to remember today.
Welcome to Friday and the latest edition of “I’m a Fan Friday!”
“I’m a Fan Friday!” is where (usually on a Friday because…well, you know…why not?) I share with you an artist I’m a big fan of.
I’ll usually share a YouTube video or some kind of audio track or something that helps me share with you what others are doing that has had, and is continuing to have, a profound effect on my life in some way.
A few years back (and for a while there, actually), I had a regular series I would do called “I’m a Fan Friday!”
Every Friday (mostly it was Friday, sometimes Saturday or a special “Sunday Edition”), I posted a YouTube video of an artist I’m a fan of. I would showcase a different artist every week, sharing particular performances that bring joy and challenge and meaning to my life.
I don’t know why I stopped doing it. I guess I got too busy making my own stuff to pay much attention to what other artists were making. I needed my “creative time!”
(What a pompous ass, right? Love, forgive me.)
When I get stalled as an artist, what gets me fired up and ready to create something (anything) that points to truth and the greatness of Humanity is taking in someone else’s art.
I couldn’t care less about what type of art someone has made. I have my favorite things, for sure, but if something about a person’s or group’s effort to communicate something lands on my heart right in the center bits and dances for a while, I welcome that art with my entire existence.
Whenever I am reminded of this, I realize I can be an instrument of spreading the joy and life-altering encounters I have had with other artists’ work to anyone who might know or come to know me, whether online or in life or in both.
So, today, two good news things, I think!
First of all, “I’m a Fan Friday!” will be back on 24 April!
So…stay tuned! I’m super pumped about this!
Second of all, I’m going to be devoting Wednesday posts to re-blogging other writers I’m digging right now.
I’m decidedly NOT doing this so that I will have “free content” for a Wednesday post. I am doing it in the exact same vein as “I’m a Fan Friday!”– to share with you, my friends, something that has moved me and made me reflect on what it means to be human.
So…reblogging. What is it and how are you going to do it?
Well, I’m going to start by going a bit meta, as I am often wont to do. Today, I’m going to begin this practice with a re-blog of a re-blog.
I hadn’t thought about this practice much because I never thought to think it even existed. I’m sure I’ve seen examples of it. I just never thought much about it either way.
Then, earlier this morning, a blogger I have come to enjoy did what is called a #writerslift in the online writing community. The writing community is where writing types (I first found the hashtag on Twitter) follow one another, share information, and most especially, find and share each other’s work.
Christina Schmidt writes a blog called Armed With Coffee and it’s definitely worth checking out! Her post from today is such a great example of this type of sharing and honoring. So, I’m going to re-blog her post so that you can go over to her site, read it, and then look around awhile. You won’t be disappointed!
So, the way I will do it (based on a bit of online etiquette research that seemed to lead to a consensus) will be to share one to two paragraphs of the blog post I’m re-blogging followed by a link to that blogger’s site, where you can read more and look around that blogger’s site til your heart’s content.
Or not…whatever you want to do.
So, here is Armed with Coffee‘s writer’s lift for today, Wednesday April 15, 2020. Enjoy and stay safe!!
Writer’s Lift Wednesday #9 Christina Schmidt, MA
This is a writersliftwednesday blog, sharing the works of fellow writers, poets and persons random. All re-blogs will be linked appropriately to their authors.
Writing is no easy calling and nothing easy was ever worth doing.
(7-minute read OR listen to the audio version HERE)
IN THE EARLY SUMMER OF 1980 I was eleven years old. Two years prior, my parents had moved my brothers and me into the forest.
From South Philadelphia to South Jersey, out of a row home and into an attractive, split-level house on an acre of land in a brand new development called McKendimen Woods. They were building a house for us.
I was not excited to move. There was a myriad of reasons, but it was something about having a brand new home that felt weird to me. It’s only now that I’m able to articulate what I felt about that.
We would be the first people to ever live there. Nothing would have happened in the confines of those walls that hadn’t happen to us.
No too-young, just-married bride would have ever sat up late and cried about her new husband being called away to fight the Japanese halfway around the world.
No one had ever chased his sister from one bedroom to the other and back again in pursuit of a Richie Ashburn baseball card because he wouldn’t give her the bubble gum, so she snatched the card right out of his hand and made a run for it.
There were no lingering spirits from families past in our house. We were each other’s ghosts.
At the time we moved in, the development was all new construction; they were literally cutting down forest, plowing roads, marking off plots and putting up one solidly middle-class dream home after another, as long as the money held out.
I don’t know if the money stalled or what happened, but our street was as far back in that little forest as you could go for a little while there.
We were a sort of suburban pioneer family, literally steps away from the natural world—a place not yet settled by humankind. My parents carved out a beautiful home for my brothers and me, among the oak and pine trees of the Pine Barrens when the world first started to fall apart.
There’s a way they world looks to us; I mean, literally how we see the world.
For example, you know you’re home because you see your house and you remember that’s what your house looked like when you last saw it.
On an early summer evening in 1980, my brothers and I—along with some neighborhood children probably—were playing on our street and around our house. We often played a game called “Manhunt,” a kind of “Hide and Go Seek” meets “Capture the Flag.” That’s probably what we were doing.
I remember at one point, for whatever reason I happened to be there, standing at the end of Oak Drive, looking down the block at my home, my whole world at the time. What I saw looked different than it had ever looked before.
It’s hard to describe—and I’ve only tried to explain it two or three times in my life—but I recognized everything I was looking at (the Hayes’ house over here, the Gardner’s over there).
I knew what I was looking at, but I was seeing it differently. The colors of the leaves and the grass were a richer, fuller green, than I had seen before. The dirt was a warmer brown, the way soil looks after a light, afternoon rain. Maybe that’s what had happened earlier in the day; I don’t remember.
What I remember most is that I was aware of the difference and took it in as something beautiful. My remembrance is that the particular way of seeing the world I had been given lasted for the rest of the evening and until I went to sleep that night. It was likely gone by morning.
I also remember not being afraid this way of seeing would go away, that I would never *get it back* again. I just lived in it and felt the joy of it as it was happening.
No need for explanation (How is this possible? Is it the light? It’s probably the light, right?). It didn’t even come up then.
No need to wonder if I was deserving or not (Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned…A lot. Probably just pre-teen boy stuff but still…). I never thought about that at the time.
I never felt I was *taking advantage* of anyone. The world physically looked different and it was beautiful and I was grateful and that’s that.
I never—and still have not to this day—attached a meaning to it. I don’t think there was an explicit lesson to be taken from the experience one way or the other, but I do believe it to be the first mystical experience of my life. I didn’t read anything into it. I didn’t question why? or ask, what now? I just saw that my world was beautiful at that very moment to me.
Perhaps I could have learned a lesson about living in the moment from that experience some forty years ago (there is no way I just typed “forty years ago!!”). I constantly find myself wanting to *lean ahead* into the moment to come, believing when that moment arrives, all will be well, all will make sense, all will be as I wish it to be.
When I look through the lens of my camera, I see the world as it is at that exact moment. It will never look exactly that way again.
That’s why I share my photos—so others can see what I saw. That’s the point, I think. We share how we see the world with others and others share how they see the world with us. I think that’s how it should be…
I’m interested in how you see the world and what you’re looking at.
I HAVEN’T BEEN sleeping well lately. I’m sure there are many who can say the same right about now.
In fact, if you’re reading this and are sleeping well, I’ll have some of whatever you’re having, please!
The Crouch’s son (let’s call him Barty Crouch Jr. the Third) has moved back in over the north wall, and he’s got his days and nights mixed up.
As I lie there, staring at the ceiling fan at three forty-six in the morning (I should dust that tomorrow. I will. First thing), I try to come up with a way to say the very thing I’ll never say if we happen to see each other out back.
“Listen, Barty Crouch Jr. the Third. I get it—the Call of Duty must be heeded, but *am* is when all good little soldiers sleep and *pm* is when they fight. Understood? That’s a good little soldier.”
This morning—sometime after the “Battle of Detroit” or whatever—I had one of those *just before sunrise* dreams. You might know the kind—you’ve been up and down all night, and just before sunrise you’re able to nod off, hovering in that space between the real world and the one we go to when we sleep.
I have seasonal allergies and with them comes post-nasal drip and with that comes a cough. So, my dream—as you can imagine—had to do with me coming down with Coronavirus.
In my dream I’m lying in my bed, thinking about my regrets and quietly talking to myself. “Well, this is it…This could very well be it.”
“Yes. I’m aware.”
“So, how do you think we did? I mean, if this is really it, if it’s all over, did we do okay?”
“Some hits, some misses. We’ve always had a tendency to over-swing, I think.”
“Yeah…Well…this could very well be it.”
“Yes, I know that. Thank you…Now I’m starting to panic. Appreciate that very much, thanks! That’s just great!!”
Time to get up and go for a run.
A nice little stretch of the Delaware River Canal runs through Bristol, and I enjoy running on it. It takes me around the edge of The Borough and back after a couple of miles south.
Two days ago, I was out on a run in the afternoon. The sun was finally out, and The Borough was teeming with spring beginnings and brand new colors never before seen. There have been colors just like these in the past, but not these colors from the year 2020—the year of the virus.
These are the latest versions from the Cosmic Creative Department – newly printed greens and whites and yellows. Each color is trying to outshine the next like a horticultural car show.
On the route I run, I always follow the canal path under the train overpass and then hop on the paved trail on my way back home. Two days ago was no different. Sometimes I see people along my route and sometimes I don’t. If I do, I normally smile and wave. I’ll nod hello at the very least.
As I was approaching the underpass, the sun was high and cast a deep shadow across the path I was on. The darkness stretched from the underpass wall, over the trail, all the way across the water, to the far bank of the canal. (see pic #3 below).
I was about twenty yards from the shadow when I saw a man and woman walking together. They were an older couple—definitely Boomers—moving in my direction. They seemed to be exiting the shadows like they were afraid of the sun. I could see that they saw me.
I ran steadily on, and as I approached them, they stopped, stepped backward into the shadows, and leaned against the wall, waiting for me to pass them by on the right.
She was wearing a hoodie with the hood up, and he a jacket with a high turned-up collar and a brimmed hat. I entered the shadow and looked at them as I passed. Both of them were leaning on their right side against the wall, faces turned away from me.
I saw her first. She took her left hand and pulled the hood over her face. He had taken his high color in his left hand and pulled it over his face. I tried to smile. I tried to nod.
I continued through the remaining fifteen yards of the overpass, and when I came out on the other side, I stopped. I looked back and saw nothing but the shadow.“What the hell just happened back there?” I asked myself.
“Crazy, right?” I answered.
It was the saddest thing that’s happened to me in a very long time. Not because I took it personally (I totally didn’t), but because this is how we have to live right now; it’s the way things are and the way things have to be. It’s frustrating and sad and scary as hell and it sucks; I wish it didn’t.
I stood on the path, panting from an unexpected stop. My body was tired, and my spirit suddenly became heavy. All of the beautiful, new colors began to blur and melt away as if the color dial had been turned in an extreme direction.
“I don’t think we’re going to make it,” I said to myself.
“Look at the path,” was my answer to that.
I looked at the path.
“Now just start running again. Keep your eyes on the path and just run. Just stay on your path.”
So, I started running again. The colors returned to new. I made it home.