Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Wedding

In the early hours of the morning this morning, Prince William (of Wales - not England; that was his real title - CNN told me so) married Kate Middleton. Since I was up and down all night with heartburn and GERD, I found myself watching most of the television coverage.

If you haven't seen it yet, don't bother. Nothing went wrong. Prince Harry didn't seem to be drunk or hungover. No one in the crowd of millions complained about the obscenity of a royal family sitting pretty atop a pile of poverty. All the commentators gushed about the beauty of Kate's gown.

Gimme a break. She's marrying the future king of England, she's gonna show up in a K-Mart garden frock? And fat chance we'll ever get to see those pictures of the kid smooshing wedding cake in his bride's face.

I wish them long life and happiness.

Now where are those reruns of SVU? I need me some Mariska kicking pervert ass.

(And PS, what the hell is that on that girl's head?!)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Tweet in Time

If I tweeted (or twittered or twitted), I might twill you something like this:
Where else but in New Orleans, can a fun-loving kind of guy spend a lazy weekday afternoon at his nearby corner drinkery, belting back cheap vodka doubles before skipping off to his five o'clock AA Meeting - without anybody raising an eyebrow?
Just an observation.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Surrender

You know that trick someone's always pulling at corporate retreats? The one designed to inspire "trust" and "team-building?" You know the one. The outside consultant who's making more in an hour than you pull down in a week suddenly stops her inspirational speechifying, claps her hands two times and chirps, "Okay, everybody, out of your seats and up on your feet! Let's all pair up into twos!"

Why "twos?" I used to wonder. Threes or fours always seemed more interesting to me for some reason.

"Now, one of you stand in front of the other. Don't look at him or her. On the count of three, the person in front will fall backward. The person behind will catch him or her. Okay? Okay. Now, one, two, three!"

Couldn't do it. Wouldn't. My mama didn't raise me to trust anybody till they'd earned my trust.

I remember a car ride when I was a little kid. There we were, mom and dad in the front seat, me and my brother Russell in the back.

My mama tilted her head around and said to me, "When you go to the Rice Theater, don't let the manager take you into his office, okay? He'll make your little bird hurt."

What the hell was she talking about? My brother Russell knew, 'cause he was squirming and giggling with his hands up against his mouth. Made me want to find out.

Never did, though, 'cause the manager of the Rice Theater never asked me into his office.

So I've been an outsider pretty much all my life. It suits me, I guess.

Yet there are times - even now - when I wonder - no, wish - that I could be like everybody else - and just let go. Lean back into the unknown, fall, and trust that someone, something, will catch me, hold me, lower me down.

Just surrender to the here and now, no questions asked, blind faith.

I imagine that's what dying must be like. Surrendering, falling through an eternal instant of whooshing wind before crashing into - or being embraced by - the deep sleep of oblivion.

In that trust/team-building exercise, I always did fine as the catcher. I'm a natural daddy-, big brother-, uncle-figure. I take care of people and things, but I won't let myself be taken care of. I do not lose control. I do not surrender autonomy.

But sometimes ...

I was invited to a birthday party Monday night. The party was due to begin at ten o'clock. That's ten o'clock at night! Ridiculous. But the birthday girl was an actress, and where actresses are concerned, "never mind the why and wherefore." In addition to that, she's an actress I have worked with, whom I like, respect, admire, and care for. So I went.

The party was at a Frenchmen Street tavern with a live band, very loud. Lots of people. Too many for me to handle. I stayed outside with the smokers and the other people who couldn't - wouldn't - deal with the crowd or the noise. I wasn't miserable. I was content to stay in my place. But something in me so wanted to be a part of that messy social gumbo.

Didn't happen. I just watched the pot.

But then - ah, but then, if I hadn't stood apart, would I have caught that magical moment when the hostess stood in the doorway of that raucous joint, straddling that slip of common ground between the partiers and the watchers, and began to move to the music? When she set her feet apart and started to sway her hips, her head slowly swinging in an arc atop her neck? When her arms reached out above her head and came down to caress her belly, and her fragile hands slid down her thighs to grasp the hem of her skirt and tug first one side, then the other, up and down, as her legs began to strut to the rhythm of a jazz jam?

Surrender? Never.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in New Orleans

If you are reading this far from New Orleans, Happy Easter to you. That is what today is, after all, where you are.

Of course, here, too, there will be the archetypal Easter rituals: sunrise services to commemorate the Resurrection, Easter egg hunts for the children, family feasts topped with all manner of chocolates and sugar-spun versions of Faberge eggs. This afternoon, a bevy of ladies of a certain age will don yards of organzas and taffeta and great big bonnets before hauling themselves up into mule-drawn carriages to be paraded around the Vieux Carre like it was all of 1832. Not to be outdone, the downtown drag queens will shortly follow them in carriages of their own, wearing even more fabulous finery and way bigger hair and hats.

Who knew there were so many beasts of burden in the city of New Orleans?

But all of that is not what today is really about to many in this sliver by the river. No, today is the day the second season of Treme kicks off! And for the cultists among us, that is the true meaning behind the Easter message of rebirth.

Tonight, all true believers will adorn themselves with feathers and fedoras as they wend their way to any number of  sanctioned places of worship to take the bread and swill the wine in remembrance of their own experience of crucifixion and resurrection.

What else you gonna do in the Saints' off-season but honor the only living off-season saint among us, David Simon?

Simon has achieved the level of reverence here once accorded only to John Kennedy Toole. But Toole, like the saints who'd gone before him, had to die a sad and lonely death before his merits were discovered and appreciated. Simon enjoys his deference here and now, because, as in Toole's book, A Confederacy of Dunces, he retells with great verve the Greatest Story Ever Told, the story of ... us.

And no one will ever go wrong in New Orleans by elevating the city and its denizens and icons to the status of myth.

The secret, you see, is that New Orleans, for all its vaunted attractions and glories, is, surrounded as it is by water and its kaleidoscopic reflections, the most narcissistic city in the world.

Where else on this planet can a person be the creature he imagines himself to be without being ostracized by his neighbors or, worse, arrested for it? Where else can you transform night into day by electing to have breakfast at midnight, brunch at dawn, and bedtime by early afternoon? What other city would allow barnyard animals as household pets, grown men browsing Saks for personal lingerie, and topless women in boas trundling up and down the streets at noon in wobbly, too-high heels?

Our self-regard is what both charms and appalls those people from outside, why some who visit find they cannot leave and others cannot flee too soon. Narcissism may require a submission to an image only we can see, but for some that is a fair price to pay for the ultimate glory of finally one day being flung into a night sky as a congregation of stars, to blaze gloriously there forever and ever.

Amen.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dance, Girl, Dance

Have you seen Black Swan yet? (It's not THE Black Swan, by the way, just Black Swan.)

I finally caught it on pay-per-view the day before yesterday - or maybe it was the day before that, I can't remember. But I did see it. Well, I saw a big chunk of it before Bobby fell asleep and I sneaked up here to the computer. But then I went back down before it ended and caught the climax. So, yeah, I consider myself as having seen it.

Hell, I paid for it.

Now, you might not think of me as a sensitive kind of lug, but the fact is, I like what people call "the dance," and I like dance movies, too. I also love horror movies.

I figured Black Swan would be a wet dream for me.

It turned out to be more like a drizzle in a dreary fog.

Now, let me explain something. Like a few of the people I know down here who write reviews for publication, I am not a critic. That's a real job with standards. So please don't let what I have to say keep you from shelling out a few bucks to see this movie or buy the DVD or the Blue Ray or the 3-D or whatever it is they're selling. In this economy, everybody needs to make a buck. Like the CGI people, for instance, who worked on this movie. I mean, putting Natalie Portman's face on every other actor in the movie at one point or another couldn't have been easy.

And don't forget the little people who did all the doubling work for her. I mean, we all know about the dance double now; but I'm sure there was a foot double for the dancing parts, a foot double for the barefoot parts. I'm also certain there must have been a hand double. (You think Natalie Portman's gonna spend a few days shooting one of her hands pulling the skin off her other hand? Please.) There was a mirror double and the double she meets on the subway and in the alleys. There were probably a dozen or so other doubles with their own doubles that went by too quick to catch. And they're all entitled to catch a few of the bucks wafting down in the breeze from the top of that mountain of profits this movie is earning.

But why is it making so much money?

Black Swan is not a dance movie. I have seen dance movies, and this is not a dance movie. I know there are people who believe, and maybe even hope, that Black Swan will encourage little girls to flock to ballet class like hordes of little cygnets. These people are twisted. Any little girl catching a glimpse of this movie will decide pretty quickly that cosmetology school is the place for her. On the other hand, I can see the movie igniting a fire in the loins of a few misogynistic little straight boys - easy pickings, groping and coupling in the wings of a Lincoln Center theatre, running and jumping, stuff like that. Will this movie advance the art? It might expand the gene pool.

No, Black Swan is not a dance movie. The Red Shoes is a dance movie. Any movie with Fred Astaire is a dance movie, even the ones he made when he was old and didn't dance anymore. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a dance movie. It's cool. And it teaches little boys how to treat little girls in the right way, with respect and tenderness and high lifts that don't end with them dropping the girl on her head or her butt.

Then is Black Swan a horror movie? No, it's just a gross-out. And it hates women. You might think that's a strong statement to make, but it's not. Early on, the movie makes it clear that all these ballerinas, with their years of grunt work behind them and ahead of them, are just lined up at the barre for the artistic director's delectation and selection. Let's be kind and say they're like members of his harem, to be rewarded or dismissed or just plain dissed. I know there is a hierarchy in the dance world, but there are also such things as sexual harassment laws; and, as much as dance might be an art, it's also a business with profits and losses, and taxes and paychecks to be paid on a regular basis. Even the poor schlub who keeps turning out the lights in the movie gets paid and has rights. So far. The Republicans haven't taken complete control of the country yet.

But, I can hear you thinking, what about dear Natalie's performance? Wasn't it divine? If you think crinkly eyebrows meant to telegraph personal misery and suffering is divine, have at it. Me, I couldn't help thinking what she needed was a sharp slap upside the head and a strong voice saying, "Girl! If this dancing gig is making you this miserable, then consider taking that job spritzing perfume at Macy's."

But she won the Oscar, you say. Yeah, like that means anything. Now, if Photoshop gave out awards ...

No, Annette Bening was robbed. Again. You don't believe me? Watch the movie, The Kids Are All Right. There she is up there on the big silver screen with Mark Ruffalo, and her face is all glowing from inside like it always does. And she doesn't want to fuck him. She does not want to do it with Mark Ruffalo.

That's a performance that deserved an Oscar!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Secret Annex

From what I can see through the bright yellow pane of my stained-glass door, it's a beautiful day outside. I can't go out and enjoy it, however. I'm in hiding.

I'm in hiding from the two maintenance guys our landlady pays to hang around, coaxing us to do their work for them. Their task this week is to paint the outside walls of our courtyard. So far they've tackled the walls of the apartments back here. Today they were going to take on the blank wall that borders the whole place. The only problem is there are plants and ceramic knickknacks hanging there.

Why is that a problem, you ask? It's a problem because they want me to take them down.

If they're not knocking on the door to borrow our drill or one of our hammers or a screwdriver or asking to use our bathroom, they're knocking on the door, waking us up from a nap, to tell us something we don't need to know. Like, "You need to take those things off the wall tomorrow so we can paint."

"Those things" are just hanging on nails. They're not secured by Gorilla Glue or anything like that. They're not heavy. I think the maintenance guys, being, you know, maintenance guys, could handle all that. So yesterday in my post-nap haze, I decided I wasn't going to do it. They would.

This morning when they knocked on the door at nine o'clock, I pretended I wasn't home or I was asleep or I didn't hear the sound. I sneaked upstairs.

Around ten-thirty I slipped back down and peaked outside again. They were sitting at our patio table shooting the breeze. The wall was untouched.

It's eleven-thirty now, and I'm still upstairs. I have no idea what they might be doing by now, probably still talking. They excel at that.

I won't know until five this afternoon. They're usually gone by then.

I can ride it out. It's no big deal. I just have to remember not to make a sound. No sudden moves to cause the floorboards to creak.

If Anne Frank could do it, so can I.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Oh. My. G ... !

Look. At. The. Goosebumps. On. My. Arms. Gina.

They're right there - there! - under all the hairs.

This little blog (that's a word that comes from saying "web log" really fast and over and over) has finally surpassed one-hundred-thousand visitors since it first went on the air in the year of our Lord two-thousand-aught-five, AD (that means "After the Death" - of Jesus, of course; he separates the "before" from the "after").

That. Is. Amazing!

Praise-God-And-His-holy-name!

It is a wonder to behold!

Of course, and, unfortunately, I cannot tell you who that one-hundred-thousandth visitor might have been since he - or she! - chose to visit here anonymously over their Verizon cell at 5:14 PM, Central Standard Time.

(Why anyone would choose to be anonymous in this day and age is something that is alien to me. Alien like Sojourner Weaver. Unless, of course, they have ulterior motives that might involve the circumventing of a law or two or something along the lines of nature like that. I do not know. I cannot pretend to comprehend. I simply sit in awe and wonder.)

Nevertheless, Bigezbear is all grown up now. People are paying attention, stopping to scan, clicking on the links - unless, of course, it's just that all they like is all the pictures. Who knows? It's not for me, or us, to judge. As I always say, "Do not walk in front of me. Do not walk beside me. Walk behind me as my equal."

Anyway.

Life is beautiful.

And did I mention, you look very, very pretty tonight?

My Brother Russell and the Garden Gnome


Bobby shot this picture an instant after I had grabbed my brother Russell's crotch. (It's okay, brothers do that to each other all the time - even fraternity brothers. Right?) Bobby's gotten slower on the shutter release since the onset of his dotage, so he missed it. Maybe I should have told him I was gonna do it on the count of three. But then  Russell would have expected something. Maybe something more. By the way, that's my brother Russell on the right - the one shaped like the male member of the Homo sapiens species.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Been Nice So Long, It's Making Me Mad

An Internet lady-friend of mine insists I am a compassionate human being and an all-around-nice guy. You start taking that stuff seriously, it begins to cramp your style.

The fact is, there are several soups swirling around inside my brain and coming to a boil that are really pissing me off.

Taking it from the top, it seems to me we've got some Kennedy-caliber speechwriters up in Washington stringing together some evocative words for a weak-kneed president who's giving the store away. Injustice, un-fairplay, and obscene wealth are the principles that are shaping our present laws. America, like its poor and middle-class citizen base, is dying; and the plutocrats can't wait to cremate the corpse.

A hundred years ago, these same things happened, but they happened in smoky backrooms. Today, they're being done proudly in daylight at noon, and nobody much cares. Why worry about things like that? It's more fun to follow the Lindsey or Charlie train wrecks. An earthquake in Japan? A tsunami? A nuclear-reactor meltdown? I'll send a few bucks to the Red Cross and get back to The Next Iron Chef. Distract my attention, relieve me from thought. By all means, excuse me from action. Dear Lord, deliver me.

Here in Louisiana, like cows in a pasture, we're placidly observing our governor and his legislature dismantling higher education and public health and gerrymandering the state's voting districts. But, hell, this grass is so sweet. Oops, I dropped another pie. Tee-hee. Pardon me.

Do you know what happens to cows?

Any of you subscribe to email alerts from NOLA Ready? I started getting them after Katrina when New Orleans was a lawless and dangerous place. Now, of course, everything's okay. There's nothing to be afraid of. The alerts all tell us so. Superintendent Ronal Serpas is on his horse and looking out for us.

There was a knifing on the 200-hundred block of Royal Street this morning around 10? Not to worry. Superintendent Ronal Serpas is on his horse and tracking down the hombre.

Somebody fell into the Mississippi River and you expect the police to go down there and look for him? Lady, that water's dirty. But, if you insist, Chief Ronal Serpas will climb up on his horse and get some people down here from Texas to dive in and take a look. Of course, that all takes time, but your boy's bound to be dead by now, dontcha know.

No matter how bad things might appear to be to those few hysterical people in New Orleans, you can all rest easy knowing Superintendent Ronal Serpas is on his horse and looking out for us.

Every alert from the NOPD tells us so.

It's beginning to look to me like we all belong to a cult. We've invested our trust, our lives and livelihood in a few select people to do our thinking for us, to provide our food and lodging, to hand down a set of commandments by which we all should live. The trouble is, not one of those commandments says to stand up on our own two feet. It's far too comfortable grazing in peace in the shade.

After all, the softer and the fatter we get, the tenderer our steaks will turn out to be.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Afterglow

I saw my play, Parallel Lives, again last night. Well, okay, not exactly. I saw the second act of Parallel Lives last night.

I don't always do that.

I watched every performance of Take Me Out back in 2006, and each showing of Valhalla, a year or so later.

When I directed The Glass Menagerie, there were scenes I watched every night, but my attention was split between what was happening on the stage and how the audience was responding. Both of those "shows" were beautiful.

Maybe I'm deluded, but I like what I do. With a handful of gifted actors and a couple of dedicated crew people, I'm able, more often than not, to make something I find, for want of a better word, pretty, something even other people can enjoy. It isn't much, but I think it is worthwhile. I feel like I'm able to add something positive and pleasurable to a person's life, rather than something negative and hurtful; and I believe I have the right to be a little bit proud of that.

Sorry to gloat, but when a generally critical person can write,
"I saw Parallel Lives last evening. It's a don't miss! The show deserves an SRO (standing room only) audience. It's that good. I could (and may) see it again. I'm still laughing! Don't miss it! You'll be doing yourself a favor. It's magical!"
I'm touched and flattered.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Where Did I Go Right?

I may not show it, but deep inside, I think I'm a lucky guy.

People who know me from seeing me around would probably be as shocked by that statement as you must be. I don't carry myself like a lucky guy. I carry myself like a short, fat, tired, old man who's always depressed.

The lucky guys I know are kind of cool and cocky, self-assured. They never betray a fear that if they were to call somebody that person would make some excuse to get off the phone real quick. They never appear to feel a twinge of panic before swinging open the doors to a bar they've never visited before and walking in as if they owned the place. Hell, they own the world. They're not shy about getting out on the dance floor and spinning the latest moves. They're willing and appear to be downright duty-bound to impress anybody in sight with the entitlements their luck bestows upon them.

As for me, well, I can't figure out what I ever might have done to deserve being lucky, so I can't bring myself to take any credit for it or assume it's some kind of birthright. It's just something I become aware of from time to time.

The only reason I'm thinking about it now is because of something I read here on the Internet earlier this week.

I'm not going to link to it. It's poorly written. It's smug and mean-spirited. It's intent was to hurt. Things like that don't deserve to be shared.

But it made me think, This guy isn't lucky. It made me wonder who or what could have hurt him so badly and twisted his point of view so awry that the only joy he could grasp today had to come through cruelty.

Bullying is all the rage these days. Maybe he was bullied as a kid. I can empathize with that even though I myself was never bullied.

No. Wait a minute. That's not so. I remember now a little girl in the first grade at St. Michael's back in my home town. She used to coax me away from all the other kids at recess and, when we were alone, demand that I give her my lunch money or she would tell Sister Isabel what I had done.

I had no idea what that might have been. I was all of six years old. What could I have done? After all, when you're only six, you don't always know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. You generally find out by doing something and then either getting a reward for it or getting sent to your room with no supper. No goodnight kiss. And since, back then, I didn't want to live without my goodnight kisses, I would hand over my nickels and run back to the rest of my recess and a quick game of tag.

Does that count as bullying? I don't know. I do know that little femme fatale evaporates from my recollections after only two or three occurrences of her coercion. What she did to me did not make me hate all other little girls nor fill me with a senseless compulsion to make them cry.

See what I mean? I'm a lucky guy.

What is luck anyway? Maybe it's all a matter of perception. Maybe it all comes down to what we see when we look at an optical illusion. The beautiful woman or the skull?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Oy, Vhat a Veek!

It's been a busy week, but I may be getting my life back soon.

On Monday, a favorite aunt of mine passed away. An easy death, if any death is easy. The sadness I felt at hearing the news was for me and the knowledge that she wouldn't be in my day-today world anymore. Otherwise, it was a fitting end to a fun and full life. She would soon have turned 94, after all. She had raised four kids and gushed over I don't know how many grand- and great-grandchildren. And her hair was big and defiantly Elvis-black to the end.

That same night I went out and came back home with two Big Easy Theatre Awards, one for directing and one for producing Frozen last year. The show was nominated in five categories and won four. I'm happy to report that I didn't say anything stupid at the podium, and I didn't cry. The whole evening was sweet and full of kindness.

Tuesday, we moved our new little show, Parallel Lives, into the Shadowbox Theatre, setting up the set, focusing the lights, and running a cue-to-cue rehearsal for the techies - who happen to be my co-producers (it's a scratch-and-scramble world down here).

By Wednesday, it was clear to me that two of the nine(!) wigs we use in the show were not suitable. In fact, they were downright ratty. Did you know that not all wigs are created equal? I didn't. Did you also know that there are places in New Orleans where you can buy reasonably nice replacements on the cheap? I do now.

Thursday's full dress rehearsal sailed by beautifully. The show was ready for the audience.

Maybe not the audience we had last night for our opening.

The house was pretty evenly divided between men and women. The women got it, the men seemed confused. Parallel Lives is a blackout sketch-comedy show written from a feminine, if not feminist, perspective. Originally meant to be performed by two women, the characters in the play are both male and female. In our production, they are played by men. But, though they might wear wigs, the actors are not in drag. This character or that one just happens to be female. Perhaps the male minds in the audience could not comprehend the gender fluidity this implies.

No, that's not it. I knew them all. Talk about your gender fluidity. Maybe we should have used boas and sequins and glitter, glitter, glitter.

At least, we sold enough tickets to cover the rent for the theatre for the night.

Today, I hope to relax.

Tomorrow, I intend to begin re-seizing the day and living like a more-or-less real person again.
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