Tennis Lessons this Friday

I can’t believe FronteraFest is here again. I’ve got a new play going up on February 6th, but before that, I’m going to be in a terrific storytelling cooperative, organized by my friend Marla. Her theme over several weeks is Love & Loss. This week, I go up with two other wonderful people.

Tristan is telling a story of meeting her husband online, and the subsequent drama and resolution with his family.

Rich is telling a story of growing older (and older) and looking for partners well into his 70s and 80s (side note: the dude just got married to someone new last month at 87).

And me? I’ll be telling a story of taking tennis lessons in Oakland when I was a kid, and the early twists and turns that took me on.

Oh, you want more? Okay, here’s a draft of the story. I’ll be telling a slightly different version out loud on Friday, but this is the source material.


TENNIS LESSONS

When I was 10 and living in California, the city of Oakland began offering free tennis lessons to kids 12 and under at some of their public parks.

At the time I remember thinking that was really generous of the local government, but now I think it might have been more about displacing skateboarders, bikers and drug dealers that were using the overgrown courts as a place to meet up, especially at parks like Bushrod—named after successful surgeon and philanthropist Bushrod Washington James–which was in my family’s neighborhood.

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The Most Important Thing

[warning: mostly irony-free post]

The “worst year” has officially passed. Though there’s another one ahead soon for his brother.

There were definitely ups and downs this past year: times of indignation, sarcasm, defiance, distraction and–my favorite–plain, outright lying. But all things considered, it could have been a lot worse.

I find this period both rewarding and trying. I also find it such a crucial time to have conviction and to be present. It feels extraordinarily important to be a kind of pillar and stay focused on the kids’ development. It just seems like this is a time when they’re ready to stray and find new paths to follow. This is a good thing in general, but I want them to know that they’re supported and listened to. It feels like the most important thing as they transition to adulthood.

I’m not sure I ever would have realized this without experiencing it. I’ve always felt it was important to stay present and attuned and ready, but now more than ever.

I can’t quite explain it, but I keep coming up with these cheesy analogies, like being there to “right the ship” or “carry the weight” or “catch them when they fall” or…. That’s all I can think of (shakes the clichés off).

Good, solid dudes. Proud of them, even as they occasionally fall and fail.

Now I just have to prepare myself for them getting behind the wheel.

Eyes on the Brooklyn Bridge

So my dad grew up in New York. He was born somewhere around Yonkers, I think, and went to college in Queens. Then after college and a bunch of fun in the army (sarcasm) he hightailed it to California, went to grad school at Berkeley, met my mother, and…. here I am.

Anyway, I’ve been traveling with him the past few years, and keep trying to think of ideas of where to go next.

And now I’ve got something. He’s mentioned a couple times that he always wanted to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge but never got a chance.

So count this as an early 2019 goal. Get to the bridge. Walk across. Become a hipster.

Maybe this summer? You can visit Marc and Darlene of Ride the Mole fame too.

On the list.

FronteraFest Stirs

We had the first read-through of Big Guy this weekend, and it went pretty well!

I think the cast is excellent, and the play’s not too shabby either. I have a bit of work to do to flesh things out but nothing too major. Nhaila, Jenn, David, Cherry and Laura seem like they’ll fit the parts well, and Ellie’s gonna direct this time, which will be a fun experiment for me. It’s a real luxury to sit back and watch someone else struggle with logistics.

We also had a photoshoot at Hyde Park Theatre. I took a few shots while it was going on, and I like the way this one turned out with the mix of blurriness and sharpness.

We debut the last regular week of the festival on Wednesday, February 6th.

Oh, I’m also I’m in another piece on January 18th. I’m a storyteller in my friend Marla’s series about Love & Loss. I’ll be telling a story tentatively titled Tennis Lessons, about my rise to tennis semi-stardom as part of the Oakland public parks program back in the 20th century. I get to be partnered with my old pal Tristan and my new British buddy Rich. I’m excited about that one too (and again, I don’t have to worry about logistics!).

See you there, squared.

Superfight

Have you played this card game? My friend’s family busted it out after Thanksgiving dinner the other day and we went a few rounds.

It’s the second time I’ve played it. The first was a couple of years ago at a work event. The concept is super cute. It’s written in a jokey, slightly-less-raunchy-but-similar-in-tone-to-Cards-Against-Humanity kind of way where you pick cards and one player might end up as a demon-possessed-car that shoots sadness rays, and another player might end up an army of fembots on segways that throws burritos (or whatever).

Anyway, the cards are silly and funny but the gist of the game is that you have to argue with the other player why your character will win. And that’s where it gets a little questionable. Because in the wrong situation (say, a work event or a Thanksgiving dinner) arguments can get heated and it can get sort of weirdly personal all of a sudden.

So…. a cute game as a concept but you definitely want to be with a low-key, comfortable group. Watching your friend and her husband go toe-to-toe in a manufactured argument about superpowers is a wee bit uncomfortable, and being told that you’re a weak, spineless coward (even in jest) by a work colleague that you don’t particularly like isn’t a great feeling either.

Wanna play?

Running on a bell curve?

I’ve been having these nagging feelings about running lately. I’m finding myself less and less motivated to do it. I haven’t felt like this in a long time, but now, when I go out to run a few miles (as I did this week on Santa Fe’s excellent Rail Trail) I find that I want to stop running and just start walking every few minutes.

I like getting outside, and I like the way exercise takes weight off my shoulders and makes me feel more productive and energetic overall. I also still like to run fast for short periods of time, which has always been my favorite thing. I like to sprint up the court in basketball. I like to run down a fly ball in softball. I even like to race my son to the nearest tree. That stuff is fun. It gives me a rush and then it’s over pretty fast.

But just jogging for long periods of time at a moderate pace is less and less interesting to me, and feels like more and more of a slog (than a jog).

Which got me thinking about my history of running, and about… aging. And about… mortality. And about… ugh.

I mean… maybe I’m over the hump in terms of what I’m athletically capable of doing. Is that possible? It’s a little bit depressing if true.

Let’s examine the evidence:

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14/48 Night One (2018)

Here we go for the fourth year in a row…

THURSDAY
7:12pm: Got to the meetup a little late; played a silly rock-paper-scissors game with the rest of the group; chatted, etc., as you do

8:03pm: The theme was pulled from the hat: Bears & Robots

8:04pm: Randomly, I was give the play #4 slot with 2 actors

8:05pm: I drove home and came up with the seed of an idea I liked!

8:25pm: I got home and the boys were silly, and we watched a little of the documentary Hoop Dreams (which I’m sort-of making them watch), then an episode of The Office (the American one) which is all they seem care about these days

8:26pm: I jotted down a couple of notes

9:45pm: Kids in bed, lunches not made; losing momentum

10:05pm: Role-playing my piece and trying to figure how I can mess with time and space and multiple characters from one actor; thinking, thinking…

11:35: Page one done! Talked to my dad about a couple of things on the phone, including getting someone to help clean his place, which I’m super excited about! Oops, time to get cranking on the play….

FRIDAY

12:27am: On page 3, hoping this weird time-shifting idea sticks together before I get too tired

1:02am: Page 4, is it any good?

1:32am: Page 5, worried it’s getting too silly

2:07am: Top of page 6, lots of edits to enter

2:42am: All right, I’ve got a rough draft. Just waiting for my son’s jeans to finish washing so I can get ’em in the dryer. Then… 3 hours of sleep till we get up for breakfast, I take kids to the bus, finish up the play, and send it in. Whoop!

5:45am: Alarm goes off, kid wakes up, I make some updates to the play and hand it to him. He read it and calls it “interesting.”

6:45am: Second alarm goes off, second kid wakes up. I make a couple more updates to it, he reads it and says “It’s cool, I like it!”

7:20am: Play submitted

8:45am: Director selected. It’s Lisa from GFT. Excellent!

9:20am: Show cast, first read-through in the can

9:55am: The day rolls on….

 

Upcoming fun things in October/November

Just a few things to highlight in the coming weeks (because I know you’re curious):

Wednesday, October 17th at 1pm: I’ll be a guest on KOOP Radio (91.7 FM) with the 14/48 crew. I’m super excited about this. In a way to promote the weekend speed-producing festival that is 14/48, I’ll be given 48 minutes to write a brand new play which will be performed by the radio hosts and a couple of 14/48 actors. I’ve never been under this kind of public pressure to create, and I’m pumped!!!

UPDATE: This happened, it was super fun. Three-page, original silly script based on the random prompt Winston Tastes Good HERE. Entire show #487 at THIS LINK. You might need to navigate to the show number once there.

Thursday, October 18th from 9pm to 7am: I’ll be writing a play overnight for 14/48 which will be performed on….

Friday, October 19th at 8pm: The first 7 of 14 new plays will be produced. Again, I love this speed-writing challenge! I’ll be there on Saturday, the 20th too, but probably not going to write for that second night as I have in the past (kind of excited to get some sleep).

UPDATE: This was a good time, though the play I wrote was a bit too detailed, I think, for the condensed timeframe. Still, good times, good people. Here’s a shot (or two) of me and the cast (Svetlana, Briana) and director (Lisa).

November 3rd, at 1pm: Ended up getting a last-minute invitation from Testify to tell a story at the New Story Festival at Huston-Tillotson University. Re-remembered the one I’d told at Spider House Ballroom a while back about biking over and falling off the Queensboro bridge onto a think metal strip. I may do another story there in March when the festival goes full-forice.

Sunday, November 4th at 7pm: I’ll be doing a storytelling event at the Hard Luck Lounge in East Austin which is intended to be a push for getting out the vote on November 6th. The theme is loosely based around synchronicity and elections, and I’m still working on what to talk about. If you have any ideas…

That’s it. A burst of events within a couple of weeks. Also, I’m in the midst of rewriting a full-length play with Caridad Svich for a follow-up workshop to one she hosted in the spring. Hope to keep up with those weekly assignments too. We’ll see how it goes.

UPDATE: Here’s what things looked like at the Hard Luck Lounge when Walter Daniels got up and played…

(and in December… we sleep…)

Chip on my Shoulder

I’m not sure if it’s post-travel edginess or jet lag or the current political climate or what, but I keep finding myself with a chip on my shoulder when I’m driving or in line at the supermarket or at the airport. Any time a dude behind me gets too close or makes some slightly sniveling face, I gird up and feel this internal challenge against him.

Okay, it’s definitely the current political climate and the state of gender dynamics, especially as played out in the media, post-Kavanaugh hearing.

It just feels like certain dudes are looking to bully their way past or pick a fight or something. Like they crave some kind of release.

Maybe it’s their anger I’m picking up on, but hoo boy, this morning a guy behind me in line for coffee got right up close and I could feel his eyes on my back, wanting me to take a step forward or do…. something.

And there was a part of me that kinda hoped he’d push me.

But he didn’t.

So that’s probably good.

Maybe it’ll pass. We’ll see. This upcoming election is gonna be a bruiser.

Intergenerational Friendships

My dad and I just spent a week together in Chicago on a kind of theatrical tour. We saw shows at the Steppenwolf (I’ve always wanted to see what it was like there), Victory Gardens, Chicago Shakespeare, Second City and Cadillac Palace (wow, that’s a lot).

We had mixed opinions on all those shows, and generally enjoyed them less than others we were traveling with, but it was a great opportunity to get a taste of the scene and the city.

One element of our trip included occasional panels with actors and directors who would talk about the shows they were in, and about the theater scene in Chicago in general, especially as it compared to other cities like New York, LA, Minneapolis and San Francisco.

One of my favorites of these discussions was with a group of young actors who were trying to make ends meet as they got a footing in the city.

At one point, they were asked what he “biggest surprise” was about joining the theater scene after studying performing arts in school. Most of them talked about how difficult it was to get agents to work for them, or about how expensive it was in the city, or about what kind of jobs they had to get to pay the bills. But one guy named Brandon also talked about how surprised he was by the intergenerational friendships he’d made over time. And it struck me that I feel this is true too, that being involved in the arts scene allows for a much wider breadth of friends at different ages and with different backgrounds than most professions.

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