I think some people have ESP. You know when you’re thinking about someone or having a conversation about someone you haven’t seen in a while and all of a sudden that person calls you? Or you bump into him or her on the street? This morning I started this post about Ray and how much I miss him, and at around 2 this afternoon, I got a very funny voicemail from him that made me laugh out loud on the corner of 3rd street and Avenue D.
Ray and I met in an acting class when I first got to Los Angeles. And then he got me a job at his restaurant, and then it turned it out we lived in the same neighborhood, and then there was that day we discovered we both like to drink alcohol, read books, and eat cookies, and it was on. Besties. We got scolded at work for talking to each other too much, but I swear we couldn’t help it. Conversations with Ray, I never wanted them to stop. You know that feeling? When you’re talking to someone you like so much about not much at all, and one thing is leading to the next and you’re both laughing and everything feels vibrant, funny, and smart? Talking to Ray was like that.
My friend is so generous and thoughtful and he knew how I was feeling even when I wasn’t saying much and he introduced me to mai tais at Damon’s and cheap margaritas at Tortilla Republic and he helped me with my tables and gave me books to read and called me Road Soda and could never turn down a Friday at Marie Callendar’s and wore plaid and laughed like a little old lady sometimes and yelled at me for not knowing who Nipsey Russell was (but I remember, Ray, I do! He was the Tin Man in “The Wiz”!) and he cut desserts in half so we could share and knew about my crushes and. Well, I sure miss him a lot. It was hard saying goodbye.
My cousin Kyana and her collaborator Novel Idea have created “Naked Layers,” a film that explores the body and vulnerability and nudity and space, and it’s so remarkable. I emailed Kyana after watching it and told her how I was nodding and crying and laughing while watching. Everything she discovers and discusses have been on my mind at one point or another, and it’s art like this that makes me feel less alone in the world. I recognize myself and the world in what they’ve created.
You can learn and see more of the project here.
This was my first week at my new restaurant. I got the job through a friend and even though it’s Beverly Hills– lots of agents, lots of celebrities, lots of substitutions– it seems like it will be a good fit. The staff is really nice and laid back, and everyone laughs a lot. I know it will be fine, but the environment does make me long for my old restaurant. I worked there for over six years, six years of seeing the same faces and taking the same orders and making the same stupid jokes at the expense of the same dopey customers. My coworkers– we developed our own language, our own way to fight, our special way to love, we could look at each other over the heads of customers and know exactly what we were thinking, we drank together and puked together, we wore green on St. Patrick’s day together, we went out for our birthdays, we righteously defended each other to those awful customers who tried to curse and holler and keep us down, we went to see each other perform, we kissed each other, we took orders when one of us was too busy, we drove to weddings to see us grow up and grow in love. We laughed about pubic hair and old ketchup and Libras and karaoke and penis size and The Sound of Music and internet porn (we laughed about porn a lot) and school cheers and missed chances and sexual advances and Aries and torn tee shirts. I fell asleep at work, I cried at work, I hugged at work, I got hugged back at work, I moaned and cursed and talked too much and yelled and laughed, I laughed like it gave me air, I fought, I balanced trays, I ate tostadas and sipped orange soda in the kitchen with Paulo as the place raged around us, I got excited at work, I wondered about my future at work, I banged into chairs, started arguments, loved my friends, I loved my friends so much it twisted something in me on a gut level and I see them everywhere I go even though I’m miles from home.
Before I left New York a few weeks ago, my cousin Nicholas performed with some of his classmates at the Bitter End, a West Village music venue. Nick goes to a performing arts high school, and some of the upperclasskids got the chance to tread the boards for family and friends on a Sunday afternoon. How often do you get the chance to watch teenagers sing their hearts out? I highly recommend it– watching kids perform is good for the soul, I think it shares restorative properties with kale and daily exercise. What I found so moving about the Bitter End performers (and believe me, I was moved– I cried into my vodka cranberry each time someone hit the chorus or craned to find the right note. My cousin Kyana teared up along with me, and we agreed that if we ever have children they won’t allow us to attend any graduations, no performances or school recitals, no occasions that might push us to tears. At the rate I’m going, an elementary school bake sale could make me nostalgic and embarrassingly weepy) was their absolute commitment, that life force that young people have that makes their art so clean and expressive and pure.
I love kids doing art. Anything– I love watching them draw, play make-believe, make up dances, paint, take pictures, sing songs, act in plays. When we’re young, that wall between our conscious and unconscious brain hasn’t yet calcified, I think there’s still a freedom to roam and a willingness to explore that doesn’t feel daunting. Youth allows our creativity to spool out away from us and live. At camp I would sometimes direct campers in our musical production, and there’s nothing that gives me goosebumps more than young voices tripping through a chorus together. Those kids. Their eyes were wide, their arms hung by their sides, their mouths wobbled, there was a glint just behind their eyes that told you they were communicating something crucial and necessary.
How lovely might life be if we could live that way as we grow older? I will pursue acting until the day I die, but often I feel far removed from my basic burn and need for it. I long for that eleven year old version of myself, the one who could live with all of her energy and seize moments on stage, the one who would have been up there singing Lady Gaga songs and show tunes with Nick and his classmates, unafraid of how she sounded as she hopped from one leg to the other, sticking her chin in the air, daring life to scare her out of saying all that she needs to say.
Yesterday was my mom’s birthday. She lives in North Carolina, so we don’t get the chance to see each other as often as we’d like, but I’m going to send her a copy of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, which everyone is raving about. Happy happy, mom!