It’s Just A Life.1

Hello faithful readers, assuming, that is,

I haven’t kept up my blog well. It’s one of those nagging guilts that eats at me, and yet I do nothing. However, I have been writing over the years. A few people know that I finished a novel recently. It’s science fiction, and yes, I’ve submitted it, many times, and yes, now I’m a real writer because I’ve been rejected, whatever. If it doesn’t get a “real” publisher I’ll self-publish and my son will inherit a storage unit filled with unsold masterpieces. 

There’s another project I’ve worked on for much longer, however. It’s a memoir of sorts. Miscellaneous short stories written in the hopes that my son can have a bit more family history than I have. Some are (hopefully) amusing, some are embarassingly self-pitying, and most of them are just a day in a life…which is my poor attempt at setting up the intro to the book, which is entitled It’s Just A Life.

I don’t know when, or if it will ever be fully published, but I thought maybe a serialization (ha! now you get the blog title right?? Hopefully, if not just google it) in my blog might be a nice way to get it vetted. Feedback (nice constructive feedback!) is most definitely welcome. So, here we go, every week a chapter from the book. I hope you enjoy, or at least aren’t embarrassed for me!

 

David Martin

 

Chapter one, in which you learn of some interesting family dynamics…

1. Oh Brother!

My parents were experiencing bad times when I was conceived. I owe my existence, I’m sure, to the fact that my father was told he was largely sterile. Ironically, I have a half brother who is one week older than me that proves “them” doubly wrong. Swear to god; born in the same hospital a week apart. Can you imagine what the nurses and doctors must have thought? I don’t know the details. I would hope my father was present for both births, but I doubt very much he was. It was a different time.

I’ve never really known my half brother, we avoid each other at family gatherings, sharing only the most cursory of greetings before moving to opposite sides of the room. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say he’s not comfortable with the fact that I’m gay, but it could just as easily be the fact that I avoid him, and I’m not even really sure why.

I reached out to him when we were in our early twenties. I had always been intrigued by the idea of a real brother. We got together for one dinner at my and my fiancé’s house, but it never seemed to amount to much. And though it provided the impetus for him to become closer to our father, the brotherly bond I had hoped for never materialized.

My sisters Yvonne and Rhonda were 6 and 5 years older than me respectively. They were legally adopted by my father, they are in reality also my half-sisters. My mother left home, married her first husband, and had a baby girl by the time she was 17. 14 months later my other sister showed up. Sometime between these two events the neighbors helped my mother escape an extremely abusive marriage. My parents married shortly after my younger sister was born.

My parents met when they were step-siblings. My mother’s father, Byron, was married to my father’s mother, Naomi for a few years. They met after mom left her husband and lived with her mother and step-father for a time. Somehow my mother becomes my aunt and my father my uncle in this scenario, and we’re not even from the South.

I suppose my father was probably a fairly good catch, he’s quite charming, was rather good looking when he was “younger”, and he was a race car driver. The parentheses are there because sometimes I think he was born an old man. One of those people who never seemed to have the carefree attitude of youth, he looks the same to me in the pictures of him and I as a baby, and years later in pictures of him and my son. He can be a very nice man as well; he and I never really managed to connect. 

I’d always assumed my parents made the mistake of staying married because of me. But really, life just isn’t that simple,. Can you imagine getting a divorce from your pregnant wife in 1965? But of course what does that make the other woman waiting in the wings? My grandmother Naomi led me to believe they were engaged, my father and the other woman, that is, but my mother assured me that she wasn’t aware of a separation, so that might not be an accurate assessment.

I didn’t know I had a brother until I was thirteen. The same year I stopped living with my father. My grandmother decided it was time for us to meet, and once she set her mind to something, it was going to happen, and screw anyone who thought they knew better. I don’t know if she hoped we’d connect on some level, or maybe it would somehow interfere with my father and step-mother’s relationship. She never liked any of my father’s wives, and I wouldn’t put it past her.

We were born in a Northern California hospital, and shortly after my father moved my mother, me, and my sisters from Sunnyvale, CA, to Washington State. I’m sure it was for a new start. Oh, if only that mythical creature existed. Within a year we had to move back due to my frequent bouts of pneumonia. My mother tells me the doctor told them to move back to California or expect me to die. Can you believe I didn’t come out of the closet until I was 24 years old? Born a drama queen. 

We moved to Sacramento, where we lived in what has since become a thoroughly terrible neighborhood, but was pretty much middle class back then. Very much a 1960s suburb, I imagine it like Bewitched, starring my mother as Samantha Stevens. I’m pretty sure in reality it was nothing worthy of a sitcom, maybe a soap opera. I hope to god it would at least be a classy one.

Mom and Dad divorced for good when I was five. I remember the last time my mother left. What a dramatic scene I remember! I was crying and following my mother as she got in the car and drove away from us. How did I even know what was happening? Does our life create our memories, or do our memories shape our life? Do I remember it accurately, or did I create a memory of what I think it must have been like? No matter what truly happened that day, the memory I have, has affected my life for nearly half a century. It hardly matters what yesterday’s truth is today.

I have very few strong memories of those days, apparently I and my father were very close when I was little, I’m told I idolized him at the time. I remember having fevers and my father sitting up with me through the night. I have one very strong memory of a night I was having trouble sleeping, I’m sure I was sick, and when I woke in the night with a fever, he was sitting in a chair watching over me. I remember him teaching me how to swim, he believed in the sink or swim method, that’s not something you easily forget. I remember being so happy when he would pick me up from daycare, but I don’t remember those times lasting much past my fifth birthday. Wow, did life change after my fifth birthday.

I’m sure the transition from the 60’s to the 70’s was monumental in some peoples lives, but I can’t say I remember being aware of the decade. I was five, I had barely learned to tell time, I don’t think I had a clue how a calendar actually worked. But though I didn’t know the era was changing, I do remember my life changing drastically. The most significant change would be our moving from an apartment in Sacramento, to a house in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. Mesa to be precise.

It didn’t seem like a monumental change to me at the time. Oh, I do remember excitedly getting on the plane in California. I wish I still had the little plastic wings the captain gave me when he came out to say hi to the passengers, and I remember getting off of the plane in a blast furnace. The heat would have been similar in Sacramento a little later in the season, but all I remember is the blast furnace that was our new home. Five year olds don’t have a lot of perspective. But even as an adult, I would say the only difference between Sacramento and Phoenix is a major river, and some social niceties. They’re both hot and exhausting in the summer. 

My sisters and I flew to our new home by ourselves after school ended in California. We moved to join my father, who had already found us a house in the spring. My grandmother had come out to help my father prepare the house for us and met us at the airport. If I’m not mistaken, by the time we arrived he had also found a girlfriend, the woman renting the house next door. How cliché; I guess it wasn’t a classy drama after all. 

I wasn’t too unhappy with the kids that came along. They lived next door for a time, so we knew them pretty well by the time they actually moved in. Jack, a little older than me, was fine,  but his sister Janet, whom I grew to like quite a bit, was “special”. She was large, and slow, and to this day I still connect her bad breath to the mayflies I mistakenly thought were the cause of the odor the first time she stayed with us. My sisters hated her. I don’t really understand hating somebody in that condition, but I didn’t have to share a room with her as they did. Anyway, she only spent short periods with us, so my sisters only had to share with her part-time.

Gwen…I can still remember Gwen 42 years later. Not so much what she looked or sounded like, but a very strong recollection of alcohol, cigarettes, and big hair. My sisters hated her more than they did her daughter, and I remember not liking her very much. I don’t think they lived with us a full year, but it was quite a year. Sometime around the end of her and my father’s marriage she kidnapped us. 

Gwen and my father had apparently had a huge fight (the divorce happened not long after that), and Gwen ran to her parents in Florida. It wasn’t the first time she ran off with us. That would have been a trip to California, to my grandmother’s. It was the last, however.  

The trip should take about 1 and a half days to drive. All I remember is sleeping with my head cradled in one of my sisters laps for what seems like a few hours, but what had to have been a miserably long trip. Most of what I remember of Florida is rain and frogs. My step-brother Jack and I spent most of one day outside in the rain, playing in the downspout on the front porch of his grandparents house. I also remember my sisters sending me down into the storm drain to catch baby frogs. My sisters and I spent some time in the woods around Westwood, CA where my grandmother lived catching lizards with our cousins in the summer, so baby frogs were no problem at all. Try not to think about sending a six year old into the storm drains, what’s over is done. I also remember swimming in the gulf (the warmest water I ever remember swimming in), and catching crabs (which I’ve never been able to tolerate, sure I’ll eat escargot, but crabs are disgusting). I also remember Gwen’s horrible mother standing over me forcing me to eat all my grits. A more disgusting concoction I’d never before been subjected to! So there we sat, the grits and I, playing the same stupid game I’d had to play with my father for years. You can’t get down until you finish it all. God parents were stupid back then.

My father showed up to get us eventually, I don’t remember Gwen much after that. I still kind of miss Jack. He was the only brother I’ve had over the years who felt like family.

It didn’t seem to be too much longer after that that I met Clark. You might think meeting my step-mother to be, Brenda, would have had a bigger impact, but in fact not only would you be wrong, but you would be horribly wrong. Nobody had as much of an impact on me as my step-brother Clark. 

The first time we met was an unfortunate sign of times to come. Surely my father and future step-mother had been dating for some time at this point. I would hope so anyhow, but I had never laid eyes on her before this day. Brenda brought Clark with her this evening for dinner at our house. I don’t remember Clark’s younger brother Kirk being present, he was young enough that he probably arrived asleep. I assume the two of them were there to meet my father, sisters, and myself. Clark brought the most fabulous hot wheels garage with him! I loved hot wheels, they were at the time so amazing to a young boy, even a gay one! Bright, colorful, made of heavy duty metal at the time, and I could play with them for hours. I’ve always loved building car tracks, train tracks, hot wheels tracks. I especially loved those electric slot cars! They worked like shit, but I just loved them. 

Boys were an entirely different subject. I was terrified of boys. Always have been. My internalized homophobia created some rather unfortunate side effects. I was terrified that anybody could plainly see that I was gay just by looking at me, so I avoided eye contact. I avoided boys in general because surely they could sense I was different. I knew I was different by the age of four or five, so surely they could tell as well. So I avoided people in general whenever possible, either by hiding in the school library with a book, volunteering to work in the school cafeteria during lunch, or by staying home, generally in front of the television. Sci-fi and fantasy shows were the best. Lost In Space, Land Of The Giants, Star Trek, or even Dark Shadows! I’m sure it led to my life long love of sci-fi and fantasy books. Unfortunately, above general shyness, was pure terror of other boys in a one on one situation. Clark lived up to most of my expectations of doom.

As soon as they arrived Clark and I were situated with the Hot Wheels garage in the dining area just off the family room where Brenda and my father could have privacy and still keep an eye on us. Not a very close eye, though. Within seconds my life changed. As I reached to help set up the cars on this wondrous toy, Clark reached out and pushed me away telling me not to touch HIS garage! Our relationship over the next 8 years would only go downhill from there.

 

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Call Me Barbra

In high school I had a perm. It was the ’80s, what can I say? It looked good on me, my hair takes a perm well, and it doesn’t relax much. It always felt natural. In fact, when a free haircut went bad and the novice haircutter snipped all my curls away my senior year, many people commented that they always thought it was natural.

Pretty hot for the eighties!

Pretty hot for the eighties!

The perm had been part of my plan to reinvent myself. I started a new high school in my sophomore year, a lucky break because of my middle school’s longer schedule. Transferring to a new school district let me bypass the dreaded freshman year. I was determined that I would not be the shy, nerdy outcast I had always been. While it was nice to miss the freshman hazing, it wasn’t so nice trying to join an already established tribe of teenagers. I was friendless, and surrounded by people who weren’t. Still, a fresh start is a fresh start.

To that end, one of my more daring moments was on my first day at the new school, in PE of all things. We didn’t have uniforms yet, and could do whatever we wanted to pass the time. So when a few upper class students asked me to play touch football, I steeled myself for humiliation, took a deep breath, and said OK. The bravest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Okay, maybe not, but at 15 it sure felt like it.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized I’m actually quite well coordinated, but since I detest almost all sports, I had convinced myself that I sucked at them all. So when the first play commenced, I ran for all I was worth, turned to see the ball headed straight for me, assumed I was about to prove to everybody involved what a complete nerd I was, and jumped to catch it! Unfortunately, instead of the awesome catch and touchdown I  silently begged for, I stumbled, fell, and slid forward on my knees, shredding my pants, and the knees inside.

I was a bloody mess, but despite the pain, I was mostly amused and embarrassed. I was also – surprisingly – a hero. The other players were in awe that I was so dedicated to the game! Blood was pretty much the coolest thing to adolescent boys of my generation (probably all generations). What a great start for the new me!

That hero cape was quickly ripped away after lunch. I looked forward to band, in years past it helped me get through the day. That was then.

This band class, however, came with a bully. The girl’s name escapes me, but though she was pretty, she was not nice. A fairly cliché, bitchy teen who probably had deeper issues. For whatever reason, she decided I was her target, and, believe it or not, this is not the first time I’d been bullied by a girl, so I wasn’t surprised.

I think these things are usually triggered by jealousy, but I can’t imagine what it was she coveted. Nevertheless, the one downside of my perm was my undeniable resemblance to one of my lifelong idols: Barbra Streisand. This teenage ball-breaker noticed that with my curly hair and rather pronounced nose, I looked like the über-fabulous Barbra. And so Bully Girl nicknamed me Barbra, with no thought to the consequences of a teenage boy’s high school image. In a fateful second, she changed my life forever. Of course, the only thing you can do to combat a bully, they tell us, is to ignore them.

Now I have to take a timeout here to discuss this option. IT BLOWS. Nobody should ever ignore a bully. If nobody will help you, talk. Try to befriend them; don’t run away. If they won’t talk, jump their ass and try your best to beat the hell out of them. I don’t give a crap what anybody tells you, your self-esteem is more important than your physical health. If you get nocked down, get up until you can’t. They will never bother you again, and you will respect yourself. (If they have a knife or a gun, you live in a shitty neighborhood and should talk to your parents or guardian about home schooling.)

So I ignored Bully Girl, and the others who laughed with her, but the damage was done. From that day on, some random jock, or group of popular kids would smile and say, “Hi Barbra,” when passing me in the halls. I would act as if I heard nothing; You always ignore a bully.

High school passes quicker than you expect – or in some cases fear – it will. The magic of college is once again the promise of re-creating yourself. Hopefully by this time, you’ve learned the lessons that adolescence burns like scars into our soul.

Or at least you’ve learned it never pays to be a weeny.

So, on my first day of class, who should walk in, sit down beside me, and say, “Hi Barbra” as if he was relieved to see me and we would surely be the best of friends? One of the popular people I hated in high school. One of the most persistent of the “Hi Barbra”, one of the very boys from that very first day of touch football. One of the “popular” kids whom I had come to hate.

Well, it was more of a love/hate. He was handsome — voted best dressed (an honor I coveted but was too monetarily challenged to attain) — and I had had a crush on him for the past three years.

Recapturing that New Me bravery from PE class, I decided this Barbra was not going to continue “The Way We Were.” This was my very first college class, my “new” new beginning. Crush or no crush, Mr. Best Dressed was not going to ruin my college experience too!

In a rare moment of chutzpah, I looked straight at him, and said, “Don’t call me that.”

“What?” He asked.

“Don’t call me Barbra,” I said.

“Why not?” he responded, puzzled. He sincerely could not seem to fathom what I could be upset about.

“Because it’s not funny. Why would I think being called Barbra was funny?”

“Isn’t Barbara your last name?” he asked.

What A Wonderful Town!

As soon as I saw the ad for Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig And The Angry Inch, I knew we’d be making a trip to New York. After all, it’s NPH, in Hedwig And The Angry Inch! Pete and I saw the movie (based on the off-Broadway one man show) years ago, we both liked it so much we bought the video, and who can resist NPH? Luckily AmEx card holders got an early purchase deal, so we got great seats at a reasonable price. It just happened to be on Pete’s birthday!

So here we were, a few months later, with our friend Deborah, making our way to New York for a long weekend. Since we were going to be here anyway, we decided we should see another show as well. Pete has been trying to get us tickets of the touring version of Book Of Mormon for years, but the tickets have been outrageous, so seeing it for a decent price in NY was another bonus!

We left Sacramento on a Thursday red-eye. Deborah grew up in Brooklyn, and visits Broadway, and her family in New Jersey, often enough to make a fabulous city guide. One of the only hiccups we had in our four day adventure was the fact that Pete accidentally made us TWO hotel reservations for Saturday, and NONE for Thursday (oops). Luckily, the wonderful concierge at The Jewel, whose name I never got, not only fixed the problem, but let us check in at 10 AM so we could nap after our flight!  The first thing we did after recuperating a bit was a pedi-cab tour of central Park.

The last time Pete and I were in New York we took a grey Line bus tour. We do it in every city now, but since we had already done one here, we chose the Central Park tour this time. It was THE perfect way to see the park, and the 73 degree, partly cloudy spring weather made it that much better. We first headed to the Astro Restaurant for a quintessential New York diner breakfast, then on to our tour.

We heard a constant refrain of, “I had no idea!” from Deborah. She has been to the park numerous times over the years, but had never seen the lakes, many of the statues, nor the tunnel with imported French tile ceiling. Our tour guide Yigit (a fairly recent Turkish immigrant) was amazing. He knew what to show us, what buildings near the edges of the park were significant, and when and where to park and let us walk. Two hours passed in a heartbeat, and I feel lucky to have seen so much of the park in such a relaxing way having just gotten off the plane a few hours earlier.

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Our indomitable tour guide Yigit.

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We headed back to the hotel for a nap, then on to dinner at Da Marcella, which, coincidentally, just happened to be directly next door to our hotel (okay, it wasn’t a coincident, we didn’t feel like straying far). Excellent choice! The drinks were soothing, the meal was top-notch, and the service couldn’t have been better. Pete and I shared Carpaccio di Rape con Feta Greca (Red and Golden Beets Carpaccio, Greek Feta Cheese, Endive, Arugula), I had a lovely Gnocchi con Gamberi e Pomodoro (Homemade Potato Gnocchi, Gulf Shrimp, Fresh Tomato), Pete had Petto di Pollo Organico Arrosto (Organic Chicken Breast, Herbed Breadcrumbs, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon, Pinot Grigio), and our travel companion Deborah had Costa di Manzo Brasata al Barolo (Braised Short Rib of Beef, Barolo, Polenta). If you happen to be in the neighborhood, I give it 4 stars.

We also had perfect weather for our four block stroll to the Eugene O’Neil Theater, and our date with the truly laugh out loud, and toe tap-ingly entertaining Book of Mormon. I know it sounds trite, but it’s also accurate! From the irreverent look at religion, to the soulful take on “first world problems”, it was as good as we could have hoped. Pete says it’s his all time favorite.

We headed back to our hotel, where we asked the concierge for a bar recommendation, hopefully with a view. We ended up walking about four blocks to a bar that was apparently hosting some sort of large graduation party. We took the (OMG packed) elevator to the 22nd floor, walked into the bar, immediately walked back out, down to the street, and walked to the god-awful Bill’s Bar and Burger for bad onion rings and a terrible Irish Coffee shake, then to bed.

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Walking TO the bar, same view on the way back.

We had to check out of our hotel the next morning since we were spending the evening (and night) visiting with Deborah’s family. So to kill time before we took the bus to New Jersey, we decided to try our luck again with a brunch cruise on the Hudson River. Score!

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AMAZING! We were starving, and the buffet, menu reworked by Chopped Champion Eric LeVine, was excellent, the view as we left the docks while finishing our meal was great, and the tour itself was unbelievable!

We had the perfect temperature for standing on the observation deck while snapping pictures of the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, the New Jersey and Brooklyn skyline, the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, Governor’s Island, and the new World Trade Center “Freedom” tower.

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We then hurried back to our hotel to grab our bags and a ‘gypsy cab’ (even Pete in his sport jacket and silver mane couldn’t manage a real cab at this point for some reason), to take us to the bus terminal for a traffic clogged trip to Joisy. Luckily Deborah’s sister Paulette pampered us until her two son’s, their lovely wives, and charming children arrived for a late dinner, conversation, and by 1 or 2 AM, comfy beds.

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I think I was googling a show or something for the next days entertainment…

 

The next morning had us riding the train (instead of the bus) back to the city. A thoroughly miserable ride thanks to the horrible parenting of the ear numbingly loud  8 year old girls excitedly making a trip into the city with their moms.

Next up, after checking back into the hotel (which I HIGHLY recommend for the location, accommodations, and five-star service!) and another bit of napping, was a unfortunately forgettable lunch at some Japanese restaurant near us just off of Time Square. I can’t even remember the name, and I don’t feel like googling it. Then a performance of the always hysterical off broadway show called Forbidden Broadway. It’s a four person cabaret with one piano, and it’s constantly updated to skewer all the current hot shows. Very funny.

This time we headed back to the hotel to rest, shower, and fancy ourselves up for Pete’s birthday dinner at Clement’s, at the Peninsula Hotel, located at 55th Street and 5th Avenue.

What a find! We were immediately seated (after the bellman told us he didn’t believe they were serving that night :-/ ), and ordered drinks. I had a gin and tonic, because they’re safe. Pete had his favorite, a Sidecar, which can be a very dangerous cocktail to order. They can be bitter and unpleasant if made by somebody that doesn’t really know how. The waiter said it was their specialty, and my heart sank. I was starting to regret my safe decision. When it arrived, it was better than any we’ve ever had. Light and frothy, with the perfect amount of tart, not bitter, lemon juice, and a sugared rim. A detail that is often missed.

We shared a Taste of Spring (green market fruits and vegetables with a hazelnut vinaigrette) and a Tuna (wasabi, picked daikon, and white soy), both spectacular. Pete had Lobster (stone ground grits and white asparagus), I had Beef Tenderloin (nettles, sweet potato, huckleberry), and Deborah had Scallops (apple and yuzu kosho). All among the best meals we could remember, no food-gasms, but well worth the ticket price.

We had a couple of hours to kill before the 10 PM showing of Hedwig, so we made a stop at the outdoor bar at Rockefeller Center for drinks and dessert. Nothing special, I had an Irish Coffee (much better than the horrible shake at Bill’s), Pete had a banana split, and Deborah had a caramel pineapple upside down cake. All yummy, and a beautiful night to hang out under the clear New York sky.

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Finally, the reason for the entire trip to NY! Hedwig And The Angry Inch, with the most truly fabulous Neil Patrick Harris!

We walked the few blocks through Time Square, to the Belasco Theater. The line was surprisingly long when we arrived, but it started moving almost as soon as we arrived. As the lights lowered, I have to admit to being more excited about a show than I ever have, and I’ve seen Wicked three times!

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The beautiful Belasco Theater

The show started with a four piece rock band tuning up on stage, and suddenly NPH lowered from the rafters in an insane jumpsuit that he unzipped, stepped out of, and didn’t stop mesmerizing the audience for the next 90 minutes. No intermission. I was blown away. He and his costar Lena Hall won Tonys (and no matter how many times I watch that clip I’m stunned) for their performances exactly one week later, and I never doubted they would. The show cannot be over praised. I could easily have sat through it again (and again).

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NPH as the fabulous Hedwig!

After the show finished we made our way to the exit, trying to figure out how we would get back stage to meet up with Lena Hall, NPH’s costar who plays Hedwig’s husband in the show. Pete just happens to know her mother, and she had arranged a tour for us! We felt like groupies. We went around the barricades holding back the crowds waiting for the stars to exit, and got buzzed in (because our names WERE on the list, luckily). We entered with Mr Harris’ husband David Burtka! (Insert little girl squeal here) and made our way into the tiny back stage area. Hedwig, being a very small ensemble show, has a very small stage, which translates to small back of the house as well. After waiting a little less than 5 minutes we were greeted by the adorable Lena Hall, who seemed to genuinely appreciate our adoration (did I point out she won a TONY for this role!?!). If you watched her accept her Tony this year, you saw the real thing. I’m convinced she didn’t expect to win, even though we had no doubt she would.

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Stephen Trask and Lena Hall

She was gracious enough to chat with us, even though she must have been dead on her feet after two performances that day, and while we chatted NPH came out of his dressing room (insert more fangirl screams here!). He was SURROUNDED by people, and looked utterly exhausted, but was gamely chatting with fans. Lena, who was by this point draped with an absolutely smashed (music writer and original cast member) Stephen Trask was gamely chatting with us about a mutual friend who had choreographed the doomed musical Dracula. We of course snapped a picture of the two of them, after which Lena said she would introduce us to Neil! (Yes, more fangirl squeals) he talked with us for a few minutes, about what I have no recollection, and then we asked if we could get a picture with him. Lena tried to take Pete’s phone (as if we didn’t want her in the picture, ha) and we insisted some other random person back stage do it. At this point I TOUCHED NPH (fangirl squeal number…oh who gives a s#!$), and, as he walked back to the groupies waiting to talk with him, he told me my hair was awesome!

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Lena Hall, Deborah, Me, NPH (smiling), Pete (eyes closed)

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Lena Hall, Deborah, Me, NPH (looking exhausted), and Pete (eyes open)

We then headed back to our hotel for the night. Yup, that’s the extent you get to be a fangirl on broadway.

The next morning we woke, checked out of our hotel, stored our luggage, and headed to the Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem. That is a sucky bus ride I’ll tell you right now. Yes, the food was spectacular, and even though we knew one of our favorite celebrity chefs, owner Marcus Samuelson

In case you don’t know who Marcus Samuelson is!

most likely wouldn’t be there, we felt it was worth the trip. Another interesting site was the infamous Atlah Harlem Church.

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My drink, however, made the whole trip worth it…

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It’s called a PYT, which I assume means pretty young thing. It was yummy…

From there we met up with another friend to spend an hour in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

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Our Brooklyn friend Laurie, Deborah, Pete, and Me at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

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and met up with Deborah’s sister to head to the airport. Oh yes, we also got a tour of East New York. And all I can say about that is, WE SURVIVED!!

 

 

 

The Wrong Lane

As usual, while driving home today, I stayed in the far right lane heading over the causeway from Davis into Sacramento. As usual I passed literally dozens of cars in the two “faster” lanes, but no matter how many cars I passed, not a single car moved over into the right lane to follow me. In fact, the reason the right lane tends to move faster is because at least two-thirds of the cars in the right lane move over into the left lanes as quickly as they can after getting on the freeway. After all, they’re the “faster” lanes, no? It says quite a bit about the mindset of most of the people wandering around trying to make their way through our world these days. No matter what the truth might be, or no matter how many times somebody tries to explain something to them, they will insist that their way is the “right” way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are plenty of left lanes that I travel in my path through the days, but I do at least try to see the fallacy of many of the choices I make. It’s taken me many years to change some habits in my life, even when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the choice I’m making isn’t the correct, or even easiest path I could choose.
I’ve come across this scenario many times over the years. I get to talk to quite a number of people throughout my workdays. I hear (or at least try to hear) the stories of countless clients. I try to listen without judgement (though quite frankly I’m only human), but again and again I’m astonished at the people who refuse to see the path they are on is possibly the hardest, and many times maybe even the unhealthiest one they could take. Wives who can’t imagine their life without the abusive husband. Students who are letting their parents dictate the major in school they should take. A daughter who lives with her “controlling” mother even while insisting that she has no choice in the matter. The stories could fill a book…maybe someday they will.
In my years of teaching color I’ve discovered again and again that stylists will be so set in their ways that they can’t see how much better a new system can be. Over and over again I have tried to preach the benefits of gentler products, and easier, more repeatable techniques. Over and over again I will try to remind somebody that a blow torch is not necessary when a match will do, only to have them say they can’t imagine that what I am proposing will work. Believe me, I make a lot of money doing what I do because it does in fact work. Many times “experts” in my field will recommend a service that is much more complex, because you can charge more! You can increase your “ticket”, a euphemism that makes me gag whenever I hear it. Sure, you can increase your charge for that one service, but can you repeat the process when that client returns? Can you continue to offer that service over a long-term relationship with that client, or is that process simply going to get you more problems down the line with a degradation in the hair quality. Will adding foils to a service to offer “dimension” serve you in the long run, or could you do it by alternating the color in your touch-up and *gasp* not charge them more? I read an article yesterday that mentioned the fact the at some point in your highlighting of a client’s hair it will be inevitable that you will have to add lowlights. What?? I almost never have to add lowlights to a client’s color unless we have decided to take it down a level, and even then I’m going to do it in such a way that it will maintain the hair’s integrity. For instance using a demi–permanent color so that it has more of a chance of holding over the long-term instead of using a permanent color which will just add another level of damage to already stressed hair. When I recommend a product such as a shampoo, conditioner, or gel, I tend to gravitate to the less expensive of the products. Sure, I could sell them a higher priced product, but how much more will they trust me if I guide them to the perfectly good product for $10 instead of going for the similar product that costs $20 or more? I can assure you, when I sell a client a product, they know for a fact that any product I’m going to sell them in the future is a product they can trust, and I’m a person they can trust to ask.
Again, I’ll say that I’m sure there are points in my life where I move over into the “fast lane” without even realizing what I’m doing, but I like to think that if somebody points out the futility of my situation I will at least take a hard look at it and ask myself why I’m doing it. How about you, how many times do you move over into the fast lane without even checking to see if you’re really passing the guy in the “slow lane”?

Maui Photo Blog, Last Day

Well, today is our last full day in Maui (we leave at about 9:00 AM tomorrow, so that hardly counts). And since it is our last day, we didn’t do much but laze around our condo, Napili Beach, and snorkel a bit. Since we didn’t do much today, and in honor of this being our first time on Maui, I thought maybe I’d list some of our firsts on this trip, so here we go: It was my first time getting seasick, and getting my feet sunburned. It was Pete’s first time to play horn and conduct a concert band in Hawaii, and It was our first time hiking in a bamboo forest, swimming in a pool at the base of a waterfall, and snorkeling to a restaurant and being refused service (stupid really, they said we needed shoes, even though every time we’ve eaten here we see people soaking wet in bathing suits and completely shoeless, we think it was the snorkel gear, little did they know what great tippers and YELP-ers we are, their loss). Not firsts for us were unfortunate boat excursions, lots of snorkeling, and lots of alcohol, and unfortunately some sort of tragedy. The first two times we were in the islands there were shark attacks on the beach near where we were staying, a few trips later Katrina hit New Orleans, and even later (when visiting with William for his college graduation trip) Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and Hawaii was under a tsunami watch. This time my mother was bitten by her dog (never get between him and his food), got a tendon sheath infection, and ended up requiring surgery on her hand! Any-who, we were smitten by Maui, there is still a lot we haven’t seen, and even though it’s a little faster paced than suits us, it will definitely be on our list of places to visit again! Aloha Hawaii, and Aloha to all of our friends who visited with us vicariously, we’ll be happy to see you all on the mainland!

Maui Photo Blog, Day Six

Today may have been our best (and most frustrating) day so far of the Maui vacay. The day started with news that my mother Betty was definitely having surgery today. Luckily she has my two sisters, my ex-wife, and a good friend of the family taking care of her, and we couldn’t really do much ourselves except keep in touch. So we decided today was the day for the road to Hana trip, and some snorkeling at our very own beach here at Napili (my feet are finally feeling recovered enough).  We stopped at Lahaina for Macadamia Nut Pancakes at the Pioneer Inn (one of the stops on our walking tour), and then on the road! The drive is beautiful, but also really curvy, and really crowded. We passed the first place we planned to stop because of all the cars. It looked way too crowded for me, so we went to the second stop we had planned. The 6 mile marker is where you find the bamboo forest. Yes, an actual bamboo forest with paths hacked into it. The trail through the forest leads you to several waterfalls, the second of which has a wonderfully refreshing swimming hole at its base. The trail is muddy, and not incredibly easy, but also not much more than a 20 minute hike in. We decided to stop, swim, take pictures, and head back. We were not disappointed! It’s a great photo-op and quick dip. We were also treated to a stupid woman climbing on the rocks at the base of the falls (yes, of course she fell and received some well deserved scrapes and bruises). We dressed and headed back. Our second stop was a fantastic little town called Makawao. Here we found a great little lunch spot called Market Fresh Bistro, and Zforrest Maui Gallery where we HAD to buy something. We bought a beautiful  river rock inlaid sushi plate (which we’ll use as a cheese board) an equally lovely turquoise inlaid cheese knives. We decided we had spent enough, and headed home to the Snorkel Bob’s only a few hundred feet from our resort for snorkel equipment, and headed to the beach. I can say without a doubt, this turned out to be our best snorkeling ever! We saw more fish and sea life than anywhere we’ve ever stayed, and we’re heading back for a rerun tomorrow AM. Stay tuned for our last full day 😦

Maui Photo Blog, Day Five

Pete went off to have breakfast, and I slept in this morning. He brought me iced tea and a cinnamon roll, because that’s the type of person he is. The rest of the day consisted of gallery hopping and lunch at Mala Ocean Tavern in Lahaina. Then back to the condo for a nap and a message from my mother telling me she’s in the hospital thanks to a dog bite, from her own dog!! Not much we can do at this point but wait and see how it goes. After a couple of hours rest we headed around the west end of the island to visit the north shore of the west side of Maui (you really have to check out a map to get it). It’s a relatively unsettled, and ruggedly beautiful area. When we got back we took a dip in the ocean, a dip in the pool, and then headed out for a cheap bbq dinner. Turns out we’re not the cheap bbq dinner type, so we ended up having drinks, dinner, and an awesome Carmel Macchiato Ice Cream Pie back at the Sea House. Oh well, it’s my new happy place…

Maui Photo Blog, Day Four

Day four of the Maui vacay started bright and early as we headed to Haleakala National Park this morning. We left around 8 (yes that’s extremely bright and early for me on vacation), with a stop at The Coffee Store for a quick breakfast, and then headed out to see the “dormant” volcano. Some people claim Haleakala is extinct, but in fact it could, and most likely will, erupt again some day. Also, for the geeks out there, it’s not really a “volcano” or a “caldera”. I don’t know why, and I didn’t bother to research it for this blog. That’s not my job, so don’t leave snarky comments (you know who you are).

After Haleakala we headed to Paia, a very weird little hippy town on the Central Maui side of the island, which sort of means the middle of the north side. Not much to see here except some really weird locals, a few very windy beaches, and a local volunteer concert band that Pete was spending the evening playing with, and conducting a bit. Turns out he filled in for some missing horn players, and conducted about the last half hour.

After killing as much time as possible with driving around aimlessly, eating some local mexican (not nearly as good as our Sacramento favorites), and visiting the local Aquarium, the Maui Ocean Center, I dropped him off and headed back home to hang out at the condo. Aloha!

Maui Photo Blog, Day Three

Day three of our Maui vacay. It started out wonderfully with fabulous weather and a quick trip to The Coffee Store for iced coffee for Pete, and an iced Latte for me. Then we were off to the Trilogy for our Molokini excursion. We were excited since we had seen tons of glowing reviews, and they MORE than lived up to the hype. The crew is friendly and bend over backwards to make your trip awesome. The catamaran is the perfect size for a small group of passengers, and the trip itself is the perfect amount of travel and snorkel. Bad news for me however, for the first time ever, in-spite of the Dramamine I took before boarding, I got dreadfully seasick while snorkeling! Pete and I got separated and while I was looking for him, the waves got the better of me, so I spent the rest of the trip feeling horrid. Pete says the lunch was great, I have no idea. Sitting sick on the upper deck for the entire last two thirds of the trip, I also managed to burn the tops of my feet. Oh well, the little snorkeling I got a Molokini was definitely the clearest and best snorkeling we’ve had in the islands, and once again I can’t say enough good things about the trip and crew. Mahalo Trilogy!