Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Birthday Tradition

Today is my son's first birthday.

Every year on my birthday, my mother calls me- not just to sing "Happy Birthday," but to recount the story of my birth.

Highlights from the story include:

*High on anesthesia, Mom saw my father and told a nurse, "I think I know that man."
* The nurses in the nursery called me "Rosebud," because of my ruddy pink skin and (if you ask Mom) my delicate beauty.
* One nurse fell asleep while rocking me, and Mom flipped out.
* The day I was born was the best day of her entire life.

I always thought that last statement was sweet, but I never really understood how much she meant it until now.  And frankly, I never thought I'd ever be the one saying anything remotely like that.  Ever in my life.  Ever.

But here I am.

I had a few minutes alone with my baby this morning, feeding him a bottle.  As we sat there, quiet and cuddly, I found myself telling him the story of the day he was born.

After all, it is his birthday.

Highlights from the story include:

*Acupuncture induced my labor.
* We had to "walk the halls" until they could check me in a hospital room, and a custodian found me groaning and laboring on my hands and knees in an empty conference room.
* While I was getting an epidural, I buried my head in the ample, comforting bosom of a Trinidadian nurse named Anselma.
* It was the best day of my entire life.

While my baby probably didn't understand what I was saying, I like to think he understood what I was feeling.  Feeling nostalgic. Feeling intense, immeasurable love.  Feeling incredibly fortunate.

And also feeling glad that I still have a few good years before he starts rolling his eyes when I tell him this story.

But when he does, I'll know that deep down inside, he secretly loves hearing it.

Because I sure did.

Thanks Mom.

Happy Birthday, Elrod.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Long ago, my friend Jody moved to NYC.  Riding on the train one day, he was approached by a rep from Calvin Klein, and asked if he'd be interested in modeling for an upcoming shoot.  The man had legit business cards, and Jody was a handsome guy.  Jody said yes, and the man replied, "Good.  Just one more thing.  Can you snowboard?"

Crestfallen, Jody told him that no, he could not snowboard, but he would "look damn cute standing on one."  Jody didn't get the job.

Hindsight is 20/20, and we all told him, "You should have said YES!  You could have learned to snowboard in time for the shoot!"  Any actor would give the same advice:  always say YES.

Can you tap dance?  YES!
Can you speak Spanish? YES!
Can you fly fish? YES!

To these three questions in particular, I feel comfortable answering "Yes."  I actually CAN do all three things with varying levels of success.  I took tap from 4th through 9th grade.  I know enough Spanish to translate the Spanish advertisements on the subway, even ones without English versions hanging alongside of them.  I lived in Montana for two years, where the men give their women waders, boots and fly rods instead of engagement rings.  So, YES.  I can do those things.

This week, my agent called with a commercial audition for me.  I'd audition for the role of "Woman," early 40's, a young Sally Field type, with longish hair and a zest for life.  Perfect.  And then she said, "Just one more thing.  Can you salsa?"


"YES.  Yes, I can."

The internet is an incredibly useful tool. Want to give your loved one a foot massage?  Interested in fish taxidermy?  Want to cut your own hair? You Tube has videos to help.  You Tube can also teach you how to salsa.

With the audition looming a day away, I watched a handful of those how-to-salsa videos, and felt I had a good grasp on the basic steps I needed to know to get by.  Until now, by salsa experience was traditional, mild to medium.  I'd been known to try the occasional pineapple-habaƱero salsa, but very rarely, and there was usually a margarita involved.

But that's a different type of salsa.

When you go to a commercial audition, the waiting area is often filled with people who look a lot like you, but with mild variations.  Someone's cardigan may be a darker green, or maybe their ponytail is a little higher.  At this audition, no one looked like me.  The place was filled with (say this with an accent) Dancers of zee Salsa.  Women had weird Madonna arms and swirly, low-cut dresses, their partners (some brought actual dancing men) were clad in snug black t-shirts or white, flowy shirts with a few too many open buttons.  To some actors, it might have been intimidating.

But not to me.  I was out of the apartment.  I had a babysitter.  There were actual adults in the room, and I was fairly certain I'd be speaking complete sentences to them.  No, I wasn't intimidated.  I was already a winner.

And then they called me in.

"Monica, you're going to dance with Bernardo."

Bernardo reminded me of that guy from the Dos Equis commercials, The Most Fascinating Man in the World.  A cross between Ricardo Montalban and...a younger Ricardo Montalban.  Bernardo said, "Jest fahllow me."

I tried. I really did.  From the hips up, I was great.  I smiled, I snapped my head on the turns, I held my arms where the lady in the video told me to keep them.  I moved my hips as much as any white girl who's seen Shakira can move them.

But my feet.  Oh, my feet. Poor Bernardo got stepped on many times over, and at one point- and I didn't think this was possible- our KNEES banged into each other.  He said, "Relaaaax, and fahllow me."  I thought I was.  During my elementary and middle school tap training, I never had this problem.

When it was over, the casting director said, "You moved your hips, so that was good!  And you looked like you were having fun."  (A small victory.)

Bernardo said, "Goodbye."  (A crushing defeat.)

In the elevator, I updated my Facebook status to simply read "Salsa-pocalypse."

I wasn't surprised that I didn't book the gig, and I wasn't too bummed out about it.  After all, I had a break from The Best Baby in the World, and when my husband got home, he made me another delicious meal- this time, fish tacos.

Rummaging through the fridge, he asked, "Where's the salsa?"  I told him I'd been so busy watching dance videos, I'd forgotten to go to the store.

He said, "But your Facebook page said 'Salsa-pocalypse'."  So, I explained about my day, about Bernardo, and about saying YES.

Deflated, he replied, "Oh.  I was hoping for salsa."

So were we all, Dean.  So were we all.