This is nothing more than a self-indulgent commentary that I am going to Hawaii. I haven’t been back in many, many years. I vowed to not endure an entire winter in New York this year and this would be my first planned adventure. I’ve been saving my frequent flier miles for five years. I just need to find something to fill the cold void of February and I just may survive this year. Just. Might. Survive.
For anyone who read my last blog, I’m in a strange spot indeed. But tonight I went to a screening of “Last Chance Harvey” starring Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. Dustin Hoffman is my favourite living male actor and following the screening, both stars appeared for a Q&A. In the movie, Dustin Hoffman sits at a piano outside his daughter’s wedding reception and lures Emma Thompson’s character into the room with his music. First, the scene was magical to me because I will often be found outside parties and social surroundings, just alone in a room with a piano. But he begins to play a song so familiar to me, that first appeared on a Bette Midler special in 1977, “Shoot the Breeze.” Arranged by Peter Matz (one of my favourite composer-producer-writers of the 60’s and 70’s), this song has haunted me for years. I’ve always wanted to sing this song… and have even blogged about it in the past. And there it appeared in this scene as an instrumental where two people are falling in love. It was charming.
After the Q&A, my friend and I walked to the front of the theatre and I approached Dustin and shook his hand, explaining “Shoot The Breeze” was one of my favourite songs. He was stunned, wondering how I possibly knew the song. After I mentioned the Bette Midler show and viewing it on Youtube, he lingered in surprise and told me this past weekend he had performed it with Sting. I explained I was a singer-songwriter and always wanted to add it to my set and he told me I definitely should. He was very genuine and moved and kept thanking me. Later I read that his true dream was to be a pianist and composer but he pursued acting because it was less painful to potentially fail at. Both Dustin and Emma Thompson and him really took the time to connect and listen to everyone. It was particularly rare for one of these events, but such a beautiful reminder of why I am on this journey.
I thought that there is a limited range of emotions. That by a certain point in our lives, we’ve felt everything from sadness or joy or madness or fulfillment or loss and they come to us in varying degrees of intensity. I didn’t think it was possible to feel something new and undefined. Tonight I’m feeling a combination of so many things, but though one would think loss would incur stress or longing, I just feel present. I fell in love with someone at the wrong time, the wrong place in our lives, and it drove me mad to not have it reciprocated. There were trips and gifts and support for my career, but inconsistent. I couldn’t develop a level of trust in any of it.
After an argument last week, stressful but direct, I said things that were hurtful. But what hurt the most is that they were true to me. Maybe I’ve been too judgmental on what a friend should be, what the essentials are. When you add love to the mix, it gets even muddier when only one of the two actually feels it. I spent most of my late teens and early twenties sticking around, showing constantly how witty or how loyal or how good I was. Emotionally, I was left raw and unattended. I used to think even the wounded deserve a chance to fall in love, that it somehow wasn’t enough reason for me to walk away.
I tried this time, never expecting to fall for someone I truly could not stand early on. But underneath the neurosis and baggage, behind the pain and wounds, I saw the hope and drive he had to be someone good. I fell in love with the essence of him. And while he’s perpetuated that we cut ties forever, I feel nothing but love and compassion and hope for him. Maybe growing older allows us to accept things with more grace. Maybe a person takes so much heartache in one lifetime and the capacity to endure more just dissipates any potential for more disappointment. But this time, I just don’t feel disappointed or regret or unhappy with my decisions. I followed my heart and instincts all the way and I couldn’t sweep my feelings away anymore.
I just wish him love.
Last night, post-attendance of the Philharmonic with Scott, we ventured uptown for a fine feast at McDonald’s. There’s a reason the stock is rising- I didn’t even realize how much awesome junk they put on a cheeseburger and for a buck and half. I was sporting my new purple corduroy jacket (I’m NOT a big shopper but when I tried on this jacket and decided to wait and buy it the next day- it sold out. Yeah, I had to go to four stores to find the last one hanging. It’s true, we want things more when they’re impossible to get). As we finished up our value meal feast and were about to leave, this crazy man across the restaurant began shouting at me.
“You stupid purple lezbo! Yeah you!” he screamed across the fast food joint until I turned around and he aggressively gave me the finger.
“I hate you, stupid purple bitch. Fuck you!” he continued screaming, flipping me off as the other patrons looked at me in surprise and amusement.
“Thanks! Have a good night,” I said, waving to him as we left. He continued screaming every obscenity in the English language, flipping me off one last time as I walked by front window. Trying to guess what triggered his reaction is about as easy as trying to figure out why every dude I fall in love with goes nuts. I’m going to venture and say he just doesn’t like the colour purple.
Since I wasn’t in physical danger, I found the experience to be positive and amusing. I mean… at least he cared enough to voice his opinion. I’ll take it over apathy and detachment anyday.
For those in love of the year as much as I. I’ve yet to decide next year’s themed year. Maybe 1971. For those of you who haven’t the vaguest idea of my delusions, I decided to begin this year as 1976. Because 2008 just couldn’t compare.
Scott and I spent today recording some beautiful Christmas songs- and when they’re made available (I’ll wait a few weeks unlike the ads that are already rampant with Christmas tunes and holiday cheer). My most recent favourite band is Rilo Kiley and their 70’s reminiscent song, “Breakin’ Up” is divinity. It’s inspired a new concept for a song, “You Can’t Break Up What’s Already Broken.” I’ve come to like something about getting older and it’s being unapologetic for really knowing who I am and what I want out of life. I hear people all the time saying how what they value the most is human connections and relationships, only to mistreat and take for granted those in their lives. That the effort taken just to be a solid presence in someone’s life is too much of a burden. That relationships have to exist “if and only if.” But I used to really get so mad at myself for loving people who are unable to be emotionally available or admit to feeling a thing. A friend and I had a really long conversation this weekend about what matters most in human connections… he said honesty, and I said consistency and resiliance. A tree doesn’t grow without consistent nurturing and light. I know what it means to say, “people come first” and really mean it. And I know that I’m not afraid or hurt by relationships where I’m the only one capable of feeling and sharing my love. Because even if it’s not reciprocated, it’s a great feeling to have.
I have always been an escapist. When stress is high the closest bus, train, plane, or rental car becomes my refuge. I’ve felt this pull for over the past year and half, strongly rooted in New York City but yearning to have a simpler life in New England. I escaped to Salem and Rockport, MA this past weekend to enjoy my favourite holiday with my “Bette or Bust” partner-in-crime. We received a “spiritual reading” on Halloween from three readers, which conjured images “two wheels in opposite directions with a flame in the middle” for my friend’s reading. I, on the other hand, seemed to bring up “wings that are ready to soar,” a “big pearl encased in a shell” that would soon be a pearl necklace, and a crown that ensured I was a princess who would be aided by a knight. I’m not sure about all the metaphors, but I think the positivity of the reading was sound. We’ve both always felt a higher calling to create good from our passion and take off. When we wrote “Bette or Bust,” and subsequently came up with tv-pitches and screenplays I was barely 18 years old. The main reader (oddly younger than both of us) concluded in a paternal tone, “You girls are just really good girls. You don’t get told it enough, but you need to hear it.” It can bring tears to my eyes now because I know the true motivation for my drive and ambition, the true intent behind all this struggle and stress, is that I feel such an obligation to spread light and be of use to the world. It’s the concern of not doing enough that cripples me at times and surely inspired the last blog.
Alone in Rockport, I wandered along the coast and the novelty shops and art galleries. The artistic spirit and kindness of the community was truly inspirational. After purchasing a handful of used books, I sat on a bench on Main St. and began to journal. A page into my writing, a little girl approached with her family dog, waiting for her mom to finish shopping.
“What are you writing?” she asked, peering over my hand.
“It’s just my journal. I’m visiting here and I wanted to write about it” I answered.
“Oh. Is that so you can remember everything that happens? I like writing. I used to have really bad handwriting because I looked at my handwriting from two years ago and it’s getting a lot better.”
“Well, you should definitely keep a journal. I have been writing since I was a kid and have years I can go back and remember,” I told her. “How old are you?”
“I’m 9, but I turned 9 a long time ago in April so I think it’s going to be my birthday soon.” We continued to chat for another ten minutes about the treats she planned on buying for her dog and piano lessons, as she asked to sit closer to me. It was a rare moment. Living in New York, children rarely strike conversations with strangers on the street. It’s just not safe or promoted. Her mom approached with her new purchases.
“This is my new acquaintance,” she told her mom before turning to me. “What’s your name?”
“Michelle,” I told her.
“I’m Nadia. I always ride my scooter down this street so if you see me you can say ‘hi’.” She hopped on her scooter as her mom took the dog’s leash. Not more than halfway down the block she came to an abrupt stop and turned around. “You know you can write about our conversation if you want. So you can remember me,” Nadia shouted.
Her mother laughed in embarassment, turning to me with a shrug. Nadia began to explain about my writing to her mother and as her voice trailed off, I began to write about the experience, fresh in my mind. Our encounter was a pivotal moment for me, as a flood of memories from my childhood and growing up in a small town came to me. It was a marker on the timeline of my life; an urgence as insistent as the waves crashing along the shore behind me. I want to live in New England and cannot imagine another place to raise my children someday. As far off as that may be, I wish it were possible to live in two locations as once. While New York feeds my spirit and soul with it’s frenetic energy, Rockport brings a stillness, self-reflection, and contentment that I have not felt since I was a child. I long to someday look out my window and see the rocky coastline, sitting behind a piano. I’m very grateful to have had the experience and for my new “acquaintance,” Nadia.