Monday, July 03, 2006

Even More Stuff I Found

High school sucked for me. Wait, let me rephrase that. High school REALLY sucked for me. I was not popular. I was not cute. I hated myself. I hated other people. I couldn't wait for 3:05PM, when the magical doors opened and I could head home.

There was one refuge for me. One oasis in the desert that was my youth. A little dramatic? Yes! But that's a perfect segue because that haven was the Drama Room. In the Drama Room I was popular. In the Drama Room I was slightly cuter than I was at my locker. In the Drama Room I was happy and comfortable and I could be myself. Without Drama, my high school years would have been unbearable.

Twice a year however, life got even a little more bearable! Because twice a year, I got to go to FESTIVAL! Yes, FESTIVAL! Festival was where we got to take all of our creativity and all of what made us unique and compete against every other school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. It was where Drama turned into DRAMA. It was like that scene in "A Chorus Line" where women and men are wearing leotards and stretching and singing, "God I Hope I Get It"! It was where a bunch of pimply-faced teenagers got their first real taste of rejection, and where the lucky few got to shine.

I failed miserably at many of these festivals. But, damn it, I picked myself up, rooted for the rest of my class, and vowed to try again the following semester. Then I vowed to try again the following school year. I would not give up because, at the very least, I was going to bond with other creative people and I was going to learn how to hear, "NO!", over and over again.

Then came 1988. There I was, all of 16 years old and Shakespeare Festival was on the way. I desperately wanted to do a monologue because I wanted to have only myself to rely on. (There were categories for monologues and group scenes, serious and comedic.) I also wanted to prove to my drama teacher, who never gave me a big part in a show, that I was worthy. Somehow I didn't get my scene assignment until three days before the festival. I think maybe I was originally in the serious category and was allowed to switch at the last minute. I picked a scene from "Twelfth Night" and played the characters Pyramus and Thisbe. My friend Sue Frietag directed me and we stayed up for what I believe was 72 hours in a row. Incidentally, Sue is now the drama teacher at the high school I attended.

Well, long story short, in a competition with about 50 schools, I won first prize. Which also meant you had to perform your monologue in front of the entire audience comprised of everyone competing in every category from every school. I believe I had already performed the scene seven times that day. And when I heard my name called I DRAMATICALLY collapsed to the floor and cried. I had only moments to pull myself together and perform one last time. I received quite an ovation. And the moment was made even better by the fact that my parents were in the audience! (They were judges in some of the other categories.)

Well, it's a moment I will never forget... Second only to my wedding day. Is that wrong? And I'm never getting rid of this damn trophy. It may be the only one I ever win.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

More Stuff I Found

I don't know why it takes me so long to post! I'm a loser! Leave me alone!

Okay, if you refer back to my June 5th entry you'll see that this is the second in a series. And here's some more stuff I found while cleaning out my house:

This is a picture of me and my grandpa Murray, my dad's dad, at what I assume was my first birthday. My grandpa was an unbelievably funny man. He could tell a story like no one I have ever heard and if you made him laugh, you felt like you conquered the world.

When my grandpa was alive, (he passed away 20 years ago), we had the best Thanksgiving dinners. We'd have our meal and then the night turned into a variety show complete with jokes, stories and performances. Every year my grandpa would request I perform "I'm Chubby", which is that short monologue where you push your cheeks in and say, "Hi. I'm Chubby. My mamma's chubby, my papa's chubby, and even my dog is chubby..." You know that one? Well, anyway every year I'd do it and every year he'd laugh until tears streamed down his face. Then my brother would perform a stupid song that made him laugh just as hard.

What else do I remember about Grandpa? I remember Sunday brunches with him and Grandma Frankie where he would cut everyone's bagels. It's funny what we remember about people. I can so vividly see his hands as he cut my poppy seed bagel. No one else was allowed to have the knife. I also remember that he smelled like cologne and pipe tobacco. I LOVED that smell. And I remember the only time I saw he and my grandmother fight:

I was probably about 10 years old and I had spent the night at their house. We were all getting ready to meet my parents at some dinner theater in Long Beach to see "Man of La Mancha" and I was sitting on the couch, sort of staring into space. My grandpa came in and asked me what I was doing and I replied, "Nothing. Just sitting here." Well, he got so mad! He asked me what was wrong with me and why I didn't pick up a book and learn something! So I started to cry and my grandma came in and asked what happened and she got mad at my grandpa for yelling at me! They fought all the way to the theater.

In a way, that was a good experience for me. It showed me that my grandparents were human, it made me feel defended by my grandma, and it proved that even the best marriages can withstand a big argument. I remember my grandpa apologizing later and giving me a big hug and kiss. I couldn't get enough of those.

Grandpa also made amazing lentil soup. He owned a restaurant before my parents were married and was almost as good of a cook as my grandma.

I remember the day he passed away. My parents came to get me out of fourth period. I was a freshman and earlier that day had performed HORRIBLY in some scene my brother directed me in. I remember them telling me what happened and feeling like I was walking around in a nightmare. We drove to Fullerton and comforted my grandma. It was all pretty awful. I got really close to Frankie after that. Especially once I was old enough to drive... We'd have amazing days together, talking over chicken salad and cookies.

I know there was a hell of a lot more to my grandpa. These are just my most vivid memories. I'm glad I have a picture of when we were both much younger.