Friday, July 29, 2011

Vibrams Running Shoes, a First Impression

They felt like dance shoes, at first, especially when I wore them inside the gym for a work out with weights (you know, to break them in). Like ballet slippers or Capezio jazz flats, the Vibrams Five Fingers gloves seemed to wrap themselves around my feet, almost as if they had been shrink wrapped or laminated, even more so than the way socks feel.

Like aqua socks is more accurate - they weren't as buttery soft as ballet slippers. But they were certainly flat. I might as well have been barefoot, which I think is the point. And like dance shoes, the new Vibrams allowed me to reach a little further in dance-stretches than my usual cross trainers do.

Julie was the sales person who helped me at REI store. She looked like an expert on camping, with her short hair and sporty work outfit of a polo shirt and capri length cargo pants. She asked me if I had already run barefoot before. I had to admit that I had not. She warned me to start with a short distance, only a mile, even, and to build up from there. Only a mile? Pshaw. I've been doing six miles in an hour this summer. I was sure I could do half of my usual jog in my new Vibrams, first time out.

Two young Asian sisters in the store made fun of my new shoes while I was trying them on. "They look like alien feet, don't they?" I asked them. Or frog feet, sort of. What did they know? They were too young, still, to understand the need for shaking things up a bit when hitting a plateau in your normal exercise routine.

Okay, so maybe they were just young enough to not buy into this current fad of weird looking shoes, shoes that appeal to those of us that are desperate to be distinctive.

Julie was right. Today, I aimed for the intersection a mile-and-a-half away from our house, but I cut it short and turned around when I reached the traffic signal that was a half mile closer. It didn't hurt to jog in the flat-footed, no-support-at-all gloves, but it sure felt different, sort of like running barefoot on the beach but without as much of the shock absorbing give that sand has.

The new shoes also slowed down my pace. Songs on my iPod were ending quicker than I was used to before I was able to reach the usual half mile increments. Also, I didn't breathe as heavily as I normally do, even in only the first mile or two, so I don't know if I'm getting a less efficient cardio workout or not.

I'll try again tomorrow. I think I'll be able to reach the mile-and-a-half mark, this time, and complete three miles in my second attempt.

If I'm able to get out of bed, that is.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tempering the Tears

I have been part of staged readings this year, playing small parts in early drafts of new plays and musicals. The chance to be part of these projects came about thanks to the musical theater workshop classes I had been taking at ANMT, and the inherent networking that came with it.

As a former dancer-singer, I have never considered myself much of an actor, just more of a performer for musical theater and revues. But I love to get lost in a good story. I have been an avid reader for most of my life, and I love the escapism that a story can provide. With these recent readings I don't feel as if I'm acting so much - I'm getting to be part of telling tales, bringing pages to life.

This weekend I will be part of a revamped and revised performance of a new musical called "The Angel of Painted Post," a highly emotional project which we had performed once already, last month. As part of the ensemble, I play one of two fathers who have lost their sons in World War II. Even without ever having been a father, it was natural to get lost in the story of a grieving parent. Maybe having lost beloved pets was enough of a resource to provide method acting for my minor part.

It's a good thing that real tears are appropriate for these fictional characters. It is not difficult to "act" my grief in several parts of the show, including when the other father, a lead character, finds out how his son's life ended, and he expresses with great relief, "He didn't suffer! He didn't suffer!"

It has been too easy to cry, in fact, both during rehearsals and in performance. I avoid looking at the other characters directly, during some of the scenes, in order to temper my level of tears.

The character of the other father, played by Stephen, has a second, surviving son. The surviving son's character was played last month by Stephen's real life son, Daniel. This was one of the most interesting aspects of the rehearsal process for me, not only to observe the two playing fictional father and son characters, but to observe what little I could of their real life relationship.

Stephen, who is a little older than me, has more than two decades worth of theater and music credits. Daniel is 17 and already has impressive acting credits on his resume. Watching Daniel, I kept thinking back to when I was 17-years-old, wondering what it would be like to have a father not only involved in theater arts, but also supportive of his son's performing aspirations.

Daniel has just graduated from high school. Having been accepted to a university was only one of his options. He is going to put college on hold, though, with his parents' blessing, to pursue his other options in film & television, and in other stage productions.

I feel lucky: in the past, a situation like this would have filled me with ugly jealousy. Now, I am only envious, in a wistful and even peaceful way. I have mourned my innner teen enough, but watching Stephen's character grieve is still too emotional for me. The tears flowed too easily, especially when Daniel, his real life son, was right there on the same stage.

I know part of me is grieving for the could've-beens. Watching Daniel, I know that part of me is crying for my own younger self lost in an emotional war. Yet, the tears are cathartic, peaceful . . . an inevitable part of the acceptance process.

I can accept the need to put my former youthful self to rest and move on with both my present and my future. Or I can continue attempting to, at least. The fact that there are any tears at all attest to the fact that this may be my own lifelong work-in-progress.

Monday, July 11, 2011

21st Century Mod

Saturday was a good day. It was an arty-farty day, light and enjoyable. It was even a trip back in time, in a wonderfully retrospective afternoon.

I went to see the Tim Burton exhibit at LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I ended up going by myself since my arranged play date had to cancel. I didn't mind. I looked forward to savoring the exhibit by myself, taking as much time as I wanted to, to soak in the details, especially anything that had to do with Edward Scissorhands.

The museum was crowded, and I wasn't the only one meandering alone. I enjoyed seeing a few art student types, with their avant-garde hairstyles, geek-chic glasses, and espadrille shoes. As a forty-something adult, I relish the 80's-inspired fashions that young people are wearing.

As expected, a lot of the art on display was dark in tone, often infused with humor. A lot of it was gory, and violent, even, such as the drawing of spaceships landing (but not from "Mars Attacks!" - that was later on in the exhibit) and aliens spearing human beings on the run. In the same picture, bloody corpses were trapped under giant alien eggs as bloodthirsty creatures were hatching out of them, dinosaur-esque and tentacled creatures.

The costume for Edward Scissorhands was on display, a patchwork of various leather pieces and many buckles. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I started to tear up when I first saw it. It was practically - and unexpectedly - my own personal Shroud of Turin, melodramatic as that may sound. Seeing the costume so close up and in person brought back the direct connection I had felt to the abandoned, childlike character two decades ago.

I needed to take a moment to step away and then come back to it. I walked into the next part of the exhibit featuring characters and scenes from "A Nightmare Before Christmas," before returning.

Next to Edward's leather bondage suit was a single set of scissor hands. It was under a cube of Plexiglass. I loved being able to examine the detail so closely, seeing that the "thumb" was a closed pair of pliers. Even upon such close inspection the metallic plastic covering the long blades, like Mylar wrapping paper, was still pretty convincing.

LACMA is within walking distance of Molly Malone's, an Irish pub. It was my lucky day: I got to see a small but conspicuous scooter rally gathering outside of the pub, a new generation of stylish mods among their tricked out Vespas parked on Fairfax Avenue. It did my former wannabe-mod heart good to see this specific subculture adapted and re-translated from the 60's to the 80's, and all the way into 2011. The newer mod generation seems tougher, grittier, with their piercings and many tattoos. They still appealed to my Inner Teen, and the young-extrovert-I-used-to-be, so eager to express my rugged individualism via a thrift store wardrobe and a Vespa scooter, circa 1986.

The cherry-on-top of my arty-farty Saturday was seeing a bright purple smartcar parked in the neighborhood. It was a candy-colored shade of purple, like the special edition M&M's you can buy in Las Vegas at M&M world. Like the uniquely accessorized scooters, it must have been a custom job. I would have been more jealous if my twenty year Purple Period hadn't ended a decade ago.

My inner Donny-Osmond-meets-Duckie-Dale reveled in the visual stimulation of it all.
It was a good Saturday.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mid-life Crisis Clubbing

BFF Kathy has two children, ages almost-9 and 6. I love them as if they were my own flesh and blood, but even I cannot fully comprehend the depth of their mother's love for them. And they have been driving Kathy crazy lately, with her usual stay-at-home mom insanity being compounded by school being out for the summer. She needed to get away, even if only for a few hours. I was more than willing to kidnap her.

After their father drove us all to the kids' introductory dinner at Chipotle (they both had pinto beans and shredded cheese on top of rice), we returned to their house to share a raspberry tart from Trader Joe's - a la mode!

The Shark Club in Costa Mesa was only about a half hour's drive away on the freeway. It was Britney versus Gaga night - all Britney and all Lady Gaga music, all night! I was looking forward to some good dancing. And there was no cover charge before 11:00 pm.

Kathy wasn't sure we were in the right place after we had parked. She saw a couple of petite young women dressed in flirtatious and feminine skirts. I pointed to the very tall glamazon standing by the front door, checking people in, and Kathy was reassured.

We got in right away, and right away we felt old. It wasn't the younger crowd - there were a few other people close to or about our age - it was the volume of the music. It was too loud! ("If it's too loud, then you're too old!"). One of the first songs we heard was a mash up of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and the Human League's "Don't You Want Me." It was a brilliant mix.

There were half a dozen go go boys rotating around the various platforms of the club. Kathy, who used to teach high school chemistry, leaned in close to me on the dance floor to shout, "They seem so young!" I thought so, too. I forgot to ask her if she ever wondered or worried about seeing her former students in "a place like this."

We had a great time, even though Kathy wasn't familiar with any of the songs. Being the perpetual adultolescent that I am, I was in my overgrown glory, dancing with Kathy to la Spears and la Gaga tunes. It felt good to dance and sweat and just let loose, not having to feel inhibited around all of the other extroverts that were there for the same reasons. Like me, the other men on the dance floor seemed to know all the lyrics as well, lip syncing right along.

During one song I didn't recognize, I asked Kathy if she wanted a break. "Are you crazy?" she asked, yelling over the music. We stayed until closing.

We took breaks when the drag queens performed on stage. We thought of Fabulous Friend Eddie, even though they weren't the best or fiercest drags queens we had ever seen ( I told Eddie later - clarified - that their not being the best or fiercest was not what made us think of him). They were still entertaining, though, the Divas-in-training.

We had perspired the night away, and we had only had one drink each when we first walked in (margarita on the rocks/salt for Kathy and a cranberry juice for me). I wanted to refuel after, so we grabbed a quick bite at a 24 hour cafe on Pacific Coast Highway, crowded for 2:30 am. I ordered too much food, and we didn't finish. The night was not long enough. We were both tired but we could have continued talking until dawn.

We practically did. Thank goodness for the holiday, and for the three day weekend! I walked back into my own home after 4:30 am. Before I left, I told Kathy that I would probably feel hung over the next day, even though I don't drink.

We're not 37 anymore.