Archive for February, 2010

January and February

February 27, 2010

It’s getting really annoying  writing on here without some sort of triumph to report.  Sigh.  That’s why entries are getting spaced out like vacuum supply stores.  We spent a lot of our heart and free time on this play I wrote out here.  Rehearsing was quite the process and pretty darn expensive once we moved out of our kitchen.  We had some pretty cool breakthroughs the last week of rehearsal and went in to our first performance without a tech rehearsal but with a lot of excitement and hope in what we had.  The first performance went well considering the lack of tech rehearsal but there were some nerves and minor issues that only we knew about.  We had about 7 people there for us out of the 60 or so total audience members.  It was a small theater by Peoria standards–probably would fit about 80 which is pretty big by NYC standards–and it was mostly filled.  At this point I was still under the impression judges were involved in deciding the winners all the way through the process so we were confident we would be moving on even though it wasn’t our best performance and we had relatively low audience representation.  We saw the other two shows–one was pretty good the other was terrible–and knew we had a better show.  Pretty easy round because only 3 shows were in each session and two of the three would move on to the next round…which we did.  The second round was also the semifinals and this is when I discovered that I was mislead by the bumbling artistic director of the festival.  This is when I found out that judges did not come into play until the finals…so the first and second rounds were completely decided by audience votes.  At this point–5 minutes before the first show started–I looked out at the audience and saw that, despite our best promotional efforts, we had 5 friends in the audience (afterwards we found out that three of them had to leave right after our show and, therefore, were not allowed to vote since they wouldn’t be seeing all the shows…even though we watched  as 15 people showed up right after our show pledging their allegiance for the last of the four shows–we were 2nd–and saw them being handed ballots and given instructions on how and when to vote before they were ushered into the theater).  Our show went great.  It was the best we had ever done it, the audience was cracking up and responding the way I had hoped an audience would back when I first wrote it.  I was really proud of us and, for the first time, absolutely, wholeheartedly believed in it.  I knew we had put together a fantastic play.  Then the next morning we looked on the appropriate website and saw that we were done.  No judges would ever see it and we would never get a chance to put it up against others on a level playing field.  Only one show from each session moved on and–guess who–it was the last show from our session that would be advancing.  This was just to punctuate what a popularity contest the first two rounds really were.  We had watched it.  It was well done.  It was…cute.  We didn’t think it was even in the same league as what we had just done….didn’t matter.  So, the competitive side of me felt unjustly ripped off and led me smoothly into a solidly depressive hopelessness that lasted for a good week…which was great.  My writing has come to a standstill because I’m usually spending my energy battling myself on whether or not there’s even a point to it.  Obviously, my persistence sucks.  My discipline sucks.  My sense of “creating for the sake of creating” sucks.  I’m really not cut out for this battle…..but God is and He’s saying “stay”.  The last couple weeks have been spent trying to figure out what our next step is and the only thing that gets us excited is the idea of performing our show for the artists in our church followed by a call to arms for all of the creatively gifted people in our church to come together in collaboration in an attempt to find purpose and to glorify God as directly as possible with our gifts…and see what happens.  First steps still need to be made on that.  We’ll see.

Other stuff:

So, it’s starting to get to that point where it is hard to remember what it was like not living in New York (I don’t think it is a coincidence that that sounds like something a prison inmate would write.)  The big picture and the major stuff is still there in my head but the details and the feeling of living in the Midwest is becoming harder to conjure up in the ol’ memory bank.  No, that does not mean living here is starting to grow on us…I think it means that 8 months is a lot longer than it sounds.  Anyway…

I know it is unwise to draw broad conclusions from singular events but, until shown otherwise, I am very uncomfortable with the mindset of rich Jewish people in New York City.  I worked my very first Bat Mitzvah a couple weeks ago and the experience was strange.  Even if I had Bill Gates-type money I have a hard time imagining dropping $80,000 (minimum) on my daughter’s birthday party.  Now I know that turning 13 is a bigger deal than any other age according to Jewish customs but I’m pretty sure that it’s because of  religion-based reasons that that is the case…and it’s difficult to take the relgious ceremony aspect of the whole thing seriously when you have someone with a microphone screaming to a room full of 12, 13, and 14-year olds (while the appropriately inappropriate rap song from 5 years ago thumps loudly from the speakers) “Where’s the sweat dropping?!!!” and the children respond along with the music, “Sweat drip down my balls!  Aaaall these b****es crawl!  Aww skeet skeet motherf—“….and on it goes from there.  This while all the parents look on smirkingly and the two adults paying for the party smile wider because the company they paid to come in to scream at and dance with these tweens are, in fact, making this party more lively.  I suppose it’s no different than families who celebrate Christmas with all the gusto and flair one could imagine and never pay one ounce of attention to Jesus (the Christ in Christmas) through the holiday.  Whatever the case, it made me uncomforable…but I did take home a lot of mints that had dear Molly’s name and birthday all over them.

Met some b-list celebrities at work recently.  It wasn’t really that cool and I didn’t have anything to slip to them so they could give it to their agents or any other cliched act like that.  The most exciting for me was meeting Devin Harris and Bobby Simmons of the New Jersey Nets.  If I were running a gossip column, I would tell you that Bobby Simmons ordered a Grey Goose and tonic and Devin Harris ordered a Shirley Temple because he was taking cold medication and I looked like a giddy school child getting to chat with NBA players…but I’m not, so don’t even ask.

I want “Up” to win Best Picture.  It featured the most beautiful montage in cinema history at the beginning of the film and it’s easily the best movie I’ve seen this year.  “Avatar” was visually amazing in 3-D but it doesn’t stand up as just a movie against Pixar’s latest gem.  Speaking of which…Pixar:  greatest production studio ever?  I think so.  Aaaaaaand bleh.

Missing Dad…

February 6, 2010

Arthur George VonBehren – November 15, 1947 – February 5, 2002

Eight years ago today my Dad died. This particular blog isn’t about chasing dreams in NYC, or wondering aloud where next months rent will come from, or speculating on what is our next step as “aspiring artists”. The fact is, I’m 985 miles from home, and on the day that I most want to be able to visit the big Lutheran Cemetery on the South Side of Peoria, IL and wrap my arms around my mom and hug her until I can’t hug anymore, I can’t.

I saw literally thousands of people on my way to and from work today. I caught myself scanning the faces in the swirling crowd that crossed 42nd Street and 8th Avenue at 5:20pm, desperate to see a brown, hand-me-down trench coat gracing the frame of a 5’10”, 54 year old man, complete with thick framed brown glasses and a rather dapper looking tweed hat.

As far as I know my Dad never visited New York. Though I have to hand it to him, for a mid-westerner, he sure did walk like a New Yorker; quickly, with an agitation that only stems from being paranoid or late, constantly propelling himself forward unnecessarily with his arms, as if he was sure the best thing in life was just around the corner. I think the crowds would have intimidated him. I know he would have fallen in love with every pastry shop in Astoria. And I’m positive he would have made us go for a jog through Central Park, all the while him pointing out the different types of trees and making sure that I ran on the “inside” so that if a rogue cyclist hit an unassuming runner it would be him instead of me. Yep, Central Park would have been his favorite and I can just imagine him saying “This is so be-u-tee-ful, Jenny” while walking through “The Ramble” on a breezy September day.

He wasn’t a risk taker, and he was a fervent worrier when it came to his kids. So how would he feel about his youngest daughter, his “Jenny”,  packing up and moving to the big city? He would have been secretly proud, but wouldn’t have shown it. Instead of telling me how much he would miss me when we left, he would have just looked at me with a little grimace and said, “Now call your mother, cause this is gonna be hard on her, okay?”  He would have collected the postcards that we’d send home and put them on display for his 4th graders, and maybe even add in a special unit on New York City to his social studies curriculum. He wouldn’t have called, but instead would have typed out letters (complete with some goofy clip-art graphic) at least once a month,  mailing them in legal sized business envelopes with our address scrawled in his almost illegible handwriting. And when he watched cheesy PG movies with my mom at home he would have said, “That’s going to be my girl”,  instead of the “That could be you someday, honey” that I heard growing up. 

But this is all speculation.

I was twenty when my Dad passed away, and my life looked very different then. As far as he knew, I was en route to being a professional violinist, although my shoulder injury was already starting to stunt my progress in that direction. My Dad never saw my junior recital which was the following month. Nor my college graduation. He never met my future husband.  When Eric decided to propose, he had to  courageously face  my Mom to ask for my hand.  My Dad didn’t know that I decided to size down his father’s wedding ring and use it as my own.  And on my wedding day it was my uncle Larry who graciously walked me down the aisle in lieu of his brother. I’ve worked over a dozen jobs the past eight years, been in at least a dozen plays, fell in love and married the man of my dreams, and made the biggest “move” of my life. And I have to pinch myself to remember that he wasn’t there for any of it.

I remember a week after he died, wishing that I could somehow find a telephone to heaven, just to simply hear the voice that was still so fresh in my ears. I was afraid that I would forget that sound. That timbre. I know now, that is impossible. It will forever be secure in the inmost corner of my heart, along with the smell of his tweed hat, the feel his big tan calloused hands, and a thousand other things that one never thinks to cherish about someone while their alive.

This story actually does have a good ending believe it or not. I mean, February 5, probably will always be the worst day of the year for me, and I never expect to do anything except have a good cry with a box of tissues and an ample stash of chocolate. But, the good news, and it is good news, is that my Dad believed that Jesus loved him enough, despite all of his flaws, to die on a cross for him, so that he could spend eternity in the best place imaginable: Heaven. Just like all the good, goal oriented New Yorkers, anxiously walking towards the next best thing right around the corner, my Dad new his whole life where he was headed and why. He got their faster than any of us ever wanted. But knowing that he has seen “what’s around the corner”, gives me a jealous hope to keep on walking in the right direction.