Our love affair began on May 20, 1992 as I sped north from Portland. I had dreamed of you for nearly a year before, set a path in motion that I wouldn’t deviate from. The long drive up from San Diego with $75 in my pocket for gas and about $200 to my name in the bank and a whole lot of homemade food for the journey. Exhilarated and terrified, spent a week in San Francisco with Jonathan, both of us broke, broke, broke, then moved on to Portland for 3 days, where they confiscated my credit card at the hotel and I had to pay by check – spent half of that $200 on 2 nights in a hotel until I finally got hold of Matt (no cell phones in those days) and spent the final night at his place before heading north as the sun set, north to YOU.
I remember the miles between us falling away in my rear-view mirror and the sun-kissed rain forest on both sides of I-5. My mind was going in anxious circles – would you welcome me? Would I be okay? I was moving towards you pretty much sight unseen: would we be compatible?
Sometime after Tacoma, I passed that bend in the road, a bend I know well now, after decades. I saw you, for the first time, awaiting my arrival. I saw you, and a calm came over me. The anxiety and fear gone, and only the one feeling remained: I was home. I had finally reached you, my beautiful, mythical Emerald City, and you embraced me at once with open arms and took me in.
We separated once, a long, drawn-out separation. I didn’t want to leave you, but my heart’s desire lay elsewhere. It tore my heart in two as I sped away on I-90, not knowing where the future would take me, but once again, speeding along an interstate, exhilarated and terrified. I didn’t know if I’d find my way back to you again.
But somehow, 3 years later, I did, this time at 30,000 feet – I had to resist kissing the ground, and opened my mouth to taste your air, so very different, so very life-giving compared to that of Baltimore. The grounding factors of mountain, sea and fire in your topography have always put my soul aright.
We were together again, and, though we’ve had our issues, you’ve been the one constant in my life. I grew up here with you. I’ve become here I am, my footprints all over every inch of you, your streets, your hills, your shores. You are a part of me, my rainy beautiful one, and our love is pure.
You had the weirdest food anxiety: always leaving two bits of kibble “for later”, always wanting me to watch you, even rub your butt while you ate. I laughed, and indulged you, sometimes. Now that you’re gone, I wish I’d indulged you more. I wish I’d watched you eat for a minute longer, wish I’d rubbed your furry little arse through all of your meals. 10 years of cuddles, of purrs, of not getting up because you were sleeping on me, of watching you ricochet sideways off the couch, of your sweet, expressive meows. Time. Always fleeting, always too short.
Exhaustion. That’s what I felt as I spend home after 5 straight days of tech. Total and utter exhaustion. “TECH”, for the uninitiated, is that period immediately leading up to opening night of a play or musical, where all the elements of the production come together. You bring in the lights, the sound, special effects if you have them (a projectionist in this case!), the final props, the final touches on the set, the costumes, the hair and makeup – everything comes together and we spend HOURS figuring out how to merge it so it’s seamless when we finally get an audience.
Though I’ve been a theatre artist for decades, I’m quite new to the world of professional theatre. Prior to this year, I was used to working a full day and THEN going to rehearsal in the evenings and on weekends, 2 hours here, 4 hours there. Usually, we’d have a week, often the call time was something like “7pm until we’re finished”, which often is close to midnight.
This time, it’s been two weeks of tech, 8 hours per day, with a 2-hour meal break in the middle, and it’s a great deal of slog where the actors are concerned, the equivalent of multiple takes, I imagine, for a film actor. It’s where we go over a particular tiny bit of the script over and over again to make sure the lighting, sound, FX, blocking, lines and everything else are as we want them to be. It’s a slog. A necessary one, but a slog.
A magical thing had also happened earlier on that Sunday of tech slog: The West Seattle Bridge had opened, after a couple years of south-end traffic gridlock, and I didn’t merely drive home, I hurtled along at what felt like light-speed comparatively, meaning I was actually able to go the speed limit instead of deal with an hour of bumper-to-bumper. I made it from the Seattle Center to my house, on the 6700 block of Rainier, in 12 minutes flat.
And as my car sped south, my exhaustion turned into exhilaration. This “slog” I’d just gone through? It was because we’re telling an amazing and important story. Everyone in the room wanted to make sure it was JUST RIGHT. It’s a story about real people who lived, and who did difficult things so others would benefit, and everyone on the creative team wants to make sure we honor those people and give their story justice. All our hard work, learning lines, putting in pin-curls to wear uncomfortable wigs, inching line by line through text so the lighting and sound are in synch...we’re doing it for them. And for US. They wanted a better world. WE want a better world. People like to talk about the arts as frivolous and unnecessary, “it’s not WORK, you’re just having fun.” There’s a truth to that. But telling stories like this also feels important.
And as the exhaustion started to turn into sparkly exhilaration, I also remembered yeah, I “get” to do this. I “get” to tell this story. I “get” to be an actor. I have fought for decades to be exactly where I am right now. This enviable position of being invited to audition in the professional arena and then getting to do the work itself. So, through the slog of tech, through the driving back and forth on a traffic-clogged I-5 to rehearsals, all of it exhausting, all of it exhilarating and it all comes down to this, in our silly world of toxic capitalism: I actually get to put “actor” under “occupation” when I fill out my taxes next year, and after such a long road, that feels extremely fucking satisfying.
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.