Sunday, August 29, 2010

Climbing the walls

(Alternate title: "Are you KIDDING me?")

Just when you think the universe loves you and is paving your way with an international premiere, open bar tabs, and free lunches, Mother Nature sneaks up behind you, kicks you in the ass, and runs away.

Dean's plane is delayed, and I have no idea where he is, or when he'll get here. Cairns is rainy and extremely foggy today- I can't even see the mountains from my balcony- and the airport is not allowing planes to land. You might be tech-savvy, and you might be wondering why the air traffic controllers don't do their jobs and help the planes land in this mess. Well, the tower has been nonoperational for a month now, and planes have to land on sight here. The airport is surrounded by mountains, and apparently, it would be "dangerous" for the pilots to try to land.
Please. Dangerous? I was considering going bungee jumping later this week. THAT is dangerous. Aren't pilots trained to use the dials and knobs in the cockpit to make the plane work? And isn't landing the plane at least half of what they should know how to do?

I'm one of those people who, in a situation like this, immediately assumes this does not apply to me. I'm the first one headed for the rental car counter, the first one to pull up bus and train timetables on my always-functional smart phone; I am the Problem Solver.

But I'll tell the Madd Skillz I have in the US aren't cutting it here. It seems Dean's plane may be grounded in Rockhampton, which- to my surprise- is a 10 hour drive from here. That would be like a flight to Columbia landing in Baltimore. This place is HUGE, in case you haven't looked at it on a map. There is no driving to the next closest airport, apparently.

My castmates are off with our director, driving up the coast to the Daintree Rain Forest, and I am in my hotel room, looking out the window at the fog and rain, phone in hand, waiting to hear from Dean.

Normally, this would be amazing snuggle weather. Obviously, Mother Nature is bitter...and single.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Distance is a Bitch

The grass is always greener on the other side, even on the other side of the world.

So, I'm here in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, and Dean is in New York City. I imagine that to him, being in Australia sounds a lot better than whatever he is doing there- picking up laundry, going to work, or even emptying the litter box. We've talked quite a bit since I've arrived here, maybe more than our pocketbooks will like, but even the twice daily calls leave us both wishing we could be where the other is. Right now, walking our dog sounds really good to me, even if it is raining there.

Since we've been in Cairns, we have eaten like kings (and big queens), and have made some fantastic new friends. We've seen the Cairns Esplanade, the Lagoon, and much of the scenic Boardwalk that edges the city's waterfront. We can see mountains from our balcony, and we have grown fond of the giant bats (Flying Foxes) that swoop by every evening, giving us a creepy and beautiful show. We have seen indigenous people, college aged backpackers, and tourists from every corner of the globe.

More than anything, however, we have seen the inside of our hotel rooms and the venue in which we will perform next week. Our noses have been in our scripts, and we are drilling our lines nightly. We work in the space (a funky bar, since the play is set in...a bar) from 9-3 daily, and work on lines and other scenes during breakfast and from about 5pm until bedtime. We want so much to make Dean proud of what we've done with his words, we've put our sightseeing and festival-going on hold until after our show is finished next week. Great band down the street? Can't go- we're rehearsing. Super cool stilt walkers and aerial acrobatics show? Sorry, we're rehearsing. Musicians from New York (who live a matter of blocks from us back home) performing one of Paul's favorite pieces? Yeah, you know it. We're rehearsing.

The cool thing is that it doesn't feel like a sacrifice to put off seeing our surroundings. This script is so beautifully constructed, so thoughtful, so rich on many deserves, demands our attention to detail. And I'd say that even if I wasn't married to the playwright- it's that good.

Dean arrives in Cairns on Sunday (that's Saturday to you in the USA), and I couldn't be happier. Happy to have him see the work we've done. Happy to save some money on those overseas calls. I'll be happy to take him to breakfast at our new favorite restaurant, Twelve B.C. Happy to show him the bats every night.

But mostly, I'll be happy that we'll be in the same place. And happy that he'll see he hasn't missed much, and that we saved all the sightseeing until he got here.

Yes, distance can be a bitch. But meeting your loved one at the airport on the other side of the world...well, that's some pretty green grass.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This ARVO we'll have a CUPPA

OK, I'm not 100% sure what the title of this entry actually means, but I DO know that those are Australian phrases, and I'm trying to incorporate them into my vocabulary now that we've landed in Sydney. I think ARVO is something dogs get, and CUPPA probably has something to with holding one's breasts. I doubt I'll do either, not today, anyway.

We have finally landed in Sydney, Australia, after a hundred and twelve hours of flying. Actually, it was more like... (counts on fingers, gets out pen, does some math, looks at clock) a hundred and two hours. I'm not sure how long I've been awake, or even how long I've slept. I'm pretty sure I brushed my teeth yesterday, but I just ate some gum, so now the minty taste is confusing me. The clock here says it's 10:46 am on Monday, August 23rd, but we left New York on Saturday, August 21st. Where did Sunday, August 22nd go? I have no idea. It's kinda freaking us out, honestly.

At this point, I'd like to give a shout out to Qantas Airlines. Despite the frustrating absence of a "U" after the "Q" in their name, this airline did not disappoint. The food was good, the crew was friendly, and the in-flight entertainment choices were plentiful. (I now have decided that we need HBO so I can watch "True Blood," but first we need a TV.) Interestingly, many of the crew were men in their 50's, and many of them have been with Qantas for over 30 years. Quite a difference from America, where the job title, "flight attendant" is right up there with "waitress" and "stripper." (Disclaimer: I have waited tables, and it is hard work. I respect my server friends, and if they want to strip, it's fine by me.)

I miss Dean already, but am happy to be here with Paul and Katie, and we're looking forward to experiencing this amazing, wild place. We hope to see kangaroos and emus, the national animals of Australia. And for the record, Aussies eat them. It's like us eating an eagle.

I'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This is REALLY happening.

Yesterday, we began rehearsals for Homo apocalyptus, a new play by the brilliant playwright, Dean Poynor. (Full disclosure: he is my husband.)

We've rented a rehearsal space right off Times Square, our director has just come in from Williamstown Theatre Festival, our leading man has just flown in from SC, and our ingenue is a recent graduate from the respected program at Carnegie Mellon University. Me? I'm the "leading lady," I suppose, and if you're reading this, you know enough about me.

In short, we are really doing this. We are producing our own material, and we are flying to the other side of the world to perform it in Australia.

This is really my life. Pinch me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

If This Street Could Talk...

I am a sucker for gossip. I read Perez Hilton like retirees read the obituaries. Recently, I've come to realize that our neighborhood is a mecca for the Liz Smiths of the walker and cane set. These people have stories to tell, so listen up.

It began when we met Irene and her constant companion, her dog, Jaia. Irene claims to be 71 (she just had a birthday), has the curly red hair of a true Irish lass, and is either a 5th or 7th generation New Yorker, depending on what version of the story she tells. Irene is a woman you cannot NOT speak to. She is warm and inviting, sassy and spunky, and keeps you lingering on the sidewalk with story after story about the people on our block. She's told us of the tragic deaths of two of our landlord's relatives (one fell off a ladder outside our apartment, and the other was struck by a car on our corner); she's regaled us with stories of her close friendship with Billy Squier ("and his beautiful wife- she is just lovely"); and she has outed a neighbor ("he's a big queen, and he HATES those flowers out front of your building.")

Irene tends to repeat stories over and over, but we don't mind. Instead, we find ourselves almost enjoying showing Irene how very interested we are in the new Brazilian neighbor (some days she's Colombian), or in the life lessons Irene has to share ("You can do ANYTHING. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.") Irene is the mascot of our block- everyone knows her, and she knows everyone- though maybe not by the correct name.

Two fellas who know of Irene are Ricky and Jimmy, whom I met at Strawberry Fields a couple of weeks ago.

Ricky and Jimmy are in their 70's, and have been together for over 40 years, which is also how long they've lived in our neighborhood. I met them when I heard a voice say, "Beagle, beagle," and looked over to see an elderly man sitting on a bench, making kissy sounds at Hank. Ricky is the quieter one, and sits with his arm around Jimmy, who does the talking. Jimmy, who dresses a little like James Dean would if he were still alive, told me that he used to rent an apartment from a woman on my block who'd killed her husband, though she was never charged for it. He told me one building on our block used to be full of prostitutes and criminals, and when it was renovated, dozens of guns were found in the courtyard. He told me that as a young man, he'd glanced into a window on our street and had seen a woman's lifeless body on a blood-soaked bed. (At this point in the story, Ricky leaned over and said, "that was on 74th.") As our conversation came to a close, I learned that the fellas are friends with Luigi, our landlord. I said, "Oh, then do you know Irene?" Ricky leaned over and said to Jimmy, "She's that know-it-all with the red hair and the dog."

We met our most recent "neighborhood historian" yesterday, on the sidewalk a few doors down. Once again, Hank brought us together, and we quickly learned from our new friend, Ms. Dana, that the frail man inside the apartment with the blaring TV was not doing well, and would probably pass soon. (Ms. Dana will not be attending the funeral, because "At my age, they happen all the time, and it's just too much.") She told us stories about sending her children to a Catholic school on the Upper East Side (she is Jewish), and that the nuns always liked her kids the best. She told us she loves dogs, but her son was so affected by the loss of his last pet, she couldn't bear to have another one. (She said she'd had a dog once, a shepherd, when she lived in Germany long ago, and another dog when they went to Switzerland. Put those pieces together, and tell me she doesn't have some incredible stories to tell.) Ms. Dana walked with us down the block a bit, aided by her cane with her name and address on it. Before we parted ways, she said she hates walking past "that bitch" down the block. I asked, "do you mean the woman with the visor?" Ms. Dana said, "Yes. You know she killed her husband."

Yes, our street is a regular Peyton Place. These people have lived here longer than many of us been alive, and I can't wait to hear what other stories they have to share. And you know, I won't feel bad listening to them talk about our neighbors, because think about it-- isn't today's history just gossip from a really long time ago?

Friday, August 6, 2010


No, I am not having a baby. But I may be the only woman in the Upper West Side who isn't.

Lately, it seems that every time I venture out, I find myself saying, "I should be taking pictures of this." By "this," I mean the astronomically high number of women who are either painfully pregnant, or pushing a child (or children, as is often the case) in high-end, souped-up strollers.

(At this point, I headed out with my camera to take some photos, but A) Hank was too distracted to cooperate with my secret mission, and B) how would you know if the photos were all from the same chunk of time? So, mission aborted. No pun intended.)

Seriously, though, there must be something in the water. Or more than likely, a high concentration of women in their late thirties who have lots of money and who have undergone fertility treatments of some kind, which would account for the high numbers of twins we see in our neighborhood. And the high number of blank stares on the faces of the fathers.

Have you seen the strollers out there these days? There are jogging strollers and twin strollers, and strollers that hold twins AND a toddler while you jog. These things have cup holders and phone holders and parking brakes and sunshades and umbrella attachments and ipod plug ins.

Dean and I were in the park the other day when we saw a whole line of mommies jogging behind their baby strollers. Just as I was about to snap a photo, the whole posse turned a corner, parked in a line right near us, and started doing leg lifts, using their strollers for balance. Upon closer examination, we realized they had a TRAINER who was leading a group exercise class for them. That guy is a genius, whoever he is.'s the video to prove it. Watch over Dean's shoulder.

Don't get me wrong- we love our neighborhood. It is safe and clean, and there are lots of restaurants and museums and trees. It's a great place to raise a child. Or in our case, a Beagle named Hank. But just to be on the safe side, I'm going to drink good old fashioned NYC tap water instead of whatever fancy bottled water these chicks are drinking. We're not taking any chances.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ancient Chinese Secret, Huh?

Laundry is an issue in New York City. Not only do we not have a washer dryer in our apartment, but there's not even one in our building for tenants to use. This means we have a few options when it comes to laundry:

1. Don't do any.

2. Gather up loose change and wash it ourselves at a local laundromat, all the while avoiding eye contact with "SCRAM Bracelet Lady", Lop-Sided Face, and Dog-Hating Visor Woman (all real people.)

3. Take it across the street to the magical Chinese laundry.

We went with Option 3.

In St. Elmo's Fire, Kirby vows to go "Fluff and Fold" once he hits it big. Actually, it's not expensive at all, and it's worth every cent to see how your laundry is transformed when you pick it up.

You know what laundry looks like in a laundry bag- it's lumpy and huge and hard to carry. BUT...when Poly Organic Cleaners is done with it, our laundry looks like this: (I've put my foot up against it to show scale.)

Inside this exquisitely wrapped package is ANOTHER package that looks like THIS:

It may not look like it, but inside this plastic cube are around 25 shirts (including t-shirts and tanks), 6 pairs of shorts/pants, about 10 pairs of boxers, 15 pairs of socks, and a couple of hand towels that got thrown in the wrong bag. Everything is folded perfectly, to the exact same size, and it's all shrink-wrapped.

As a cherry on the top of this Laundry Sundae, an autographed photo of Mr. Steve Martin hangs in the cleaners, alongside one of our yet-to-be-spotted neighbor, Mr. Billy Squier. Even the greats appreciate Poly Organic's Ancient Chinese Secret.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Auditions are...(fill in the blank)

Today I went to two auditions. WENT to.

In the first play, I was auditioning for the role of a woman in her mid-30's who is going through a gender identity crisis. This role required some tasteful rear end nudity, and the character sings an a capella song at the end of the play, likely about her transformation. If you know me, you know I love two things: baring my rear end and singing in front of people. If you don't know me, then that doesn't seem funny to you at all.

The second audition was for a show based on a book with somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 characters, but the play has only 5 actors. I was reading for the role of Gertrude Bell, Aunt Mumma, and about a dozen more. The director not only wanted actors to come in with a 90 second monologue, but also (get this) a scene in which the auditioning actor would portray BOTH roles. Memorized. You know, to show range. Because playing Lady Macbeth, Juanita from Sordid Lives and Fudge in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing means I'm kinda a one-note actor.

You may be wondering how these auditions went. "If I know Monica, she really shone in that gender-bending role- she loves a nice pair of slacks." Or maybe, "Monica has always reminded me of extraordinary British diplomat and spy, Gertrude Bell." If only...

As it turned out, both shows are knee-deep in rehearsals while we are in Australia, so the stage managers sent me on my way with a "thank you anyway" and audible sighs.

Still, I feel pretty good about today. My hair did exactly what it was supposed to do, and Hank said my monologue was very effective, even though it made no mention of dogs. I took the train in the correct direction to the appropriate stops. I finished reading Wonder of the World and plan on using something from it for a new comedic audition piece. And for a late-afternoon treat, Dean and I are going to a taping of David Letterman's show.

Tomorrow morning, I will go to the Actors' Equity Audition Center to sit and wait for the chance to audition for the new Playwrights Horizons show. Maybe I'll wear a nice pair of slacks...