Sunday, March 25, 2007

This short story is my life

I’ve been frantically looking for an apartment in Chicago ever since I arrived in Green Bay: I’m anxious to get to work with the theatre company down there, but also, the sooner I find a place to live, the sooner I can get a “real” job and start paying back some of those huge student loans, which I like to personify as the Dragon with myself as St. George. This is not easy because my parents have a very. slow. internet. and I’m not familiar with Chi-town, so reading descriptions of neighborhoods goes completely over my head. I have a few leads, however, so Dad and I are driving down tomorrow to see a couple places. My parents have been very understanding of me, and if they’re smiling indulgently at my international airs at least they’re not letting me see it. Mom and I went out shopping yesterday for new trousers, since the courduroy ones I bought in London are literally falling off my a££ and I needed some more hair dye. (I know it will come as a shock to some of you that my Belle Watling red is not natural, but there you are.) Also I found new boots for $5. $5! Pointy-toed and fashionable! $5! Then Dad and I went out last night for a drink at St. Brendan’s, the closest thing to an Irish pub in Green Bay. It felt very normal to be sitting there clutching a pint of Newcastle instead of a can of Bud—not that I’m turning into a heavy drinker, I’m just a girl who knows what she likes*--and it was great to talk to Dad about our family and being in West Side Story in the sixties.

Today was the first break in the fa├žade of okayness. I got a new cell phone and dad was asking me about the contract length. “Two years!” I said “I might as well sign a contract for two years since I’m stuck in this country!” Blink. “Er, no offence.” Dad suggested I should go back. I could have fought a little harder to stay, it’s true I didn’t do absolutely everything I could have, but I thought I wanted to be here. It’s just turning out to be harder than I thought to transition. Again, I think once I get a job and start meeting some new people, also theatrical therapy, I’ll be fine. Green Bay is a VERY small town. I’m at KaVarna’s right now, the “local” coffee shop, working on my new play, and having tea and scone. It’s not the barrista’s fault that she doesn’t know how to make tea, or that the only stuff they have here is horrid Earl Grey instead of an afternoon blend, nor that the scone is less scone and more “concrete with berries” and that I had to ask for an individual jug of milk because this is America and we have communal pitchers here and that it’s the little things like that which are adding up to make me sad. When that happens, of course, it’s time to consult the magic Stephen Sondheim eight-ball which tells us today “And you think of all of the things you’ve seen, and you wish that you could live in between, and you’re back again only different than before.”

Although, I’ve finally cleaned all the black stuff out of my sinuses, which can only been a good thing.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

"And every day...Some go away..."

And I'm here in Wisconsin. Can't say "home" exactly, but I'm safe in my parents house, happily enjoying 50 degree weather. The trip was surreal, if uneventful. I slept on the plane for almost four hours (happily drooling most of the time--unfortunate side effect of sleeping pills) and then finished reading The Guardian. I thought I would be more upset, more emotional. I don't really feel anything, just sort of hollow. I don't believe that there's a whole cityful of people living and loving without me today. I'm a little numb, sort of going through the motions: I need to find an apartment, get my book together for this next show, go to the bank, get a dog, etc but I'll do all those things without going through Trafalgar Square or getting on a Tube. It's very strange.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It was the end of a perfect day.

I arrived at the London Eye at the same time the snow did. All morning I lolled around the house, enjoying sunshine and blue skies, and then as soon as I got to Westminster, bang, snow, freezing rain, wind…my jeans were soaked six inches up the cuff by the time I got to the ticket office. Twenty minutes later it was clear so I finally got the last touristy thing out of the way: the London Eye has become the biggest icon of the city (not to mention tourist draw) since it was erected in time for the new millennium, but I’d always shunned it as being touristy. I changed my mind though when I realized it would afford me a view of the city I haven’t had before, and I’ve had many. So I went. It was beautiful. The whole city laid out like a maze underneath me, the buildings uniformly grey up in the sky. I played at picking out favourite landmarks and gazing off down the river. The only thing marring my trip were two American women, probably about my age, who were obviously on a vay-cay-shun and who kept exclaiming “oh, that’s a pretty building!” *click* “what is that?” *click* “That’s another good one of Big Ben!” causing me to forcibly restrain myself from pointing out they’ve just taken a picture of Charing Cross train station and the bell tower which contains Big Ben, but there you go. I mean, what is the point of having a picture of something if you don’t know that it loses sixteen minutes every year and that Charing Cross marks the final stage of Queen Eleanor’s funeral journey back to London? The Amies were out en masse today…everywhere I went I heard them. I hate how I sound when I talk to Americans. My voice gets higher and I tend to say “like” and “ya know” more. To my ears I sound more apologetic, almost “hey, we’re Americans together, isn’t it embarrassing?” I went to the King’s Arms in Greenwich for a roast dinner (I had planned on going to the Trafalgar, but they don’t serve dinner on Sundays, so I had to content myself with stealing a box of matches instead. I wasn’t overly upset though because they didn’t have “Hardy’s Kiss” on tap anyway.) and the girl behind the bar THERE was an American! Whilst I was tucking into my roast (and a very acceptable ale called “Broadside”) a gaggle of tourists came in and struck up a conversation with the girl behind the counter, and she was very friendly, suggesting they take a bus ride, a boat ride…again, I had to stop myself from leaping up and offering myself as a tour guide. Instead I ordered treacle sponge for dessert. I remembered how much my parents enjoyed the double-decker bus tour and, if you only have a few days, they are a great way to see the city. But to truly enjoy London, you need to walk it. And walk it and walk it and walk it. I’ve been doing so much walking I’m getting shin splints. I feel like I’ve got the whole city embedded on my brain, details, maps, history, culture. It’s full: there’s no more room. Tomorrow I’m going to do laundry and spend a day inside off my feet. I’ve settled on a plan of action re: moving back to the States, but the idea of memorizing another city is overwhelming. I’ll have to take it one day at a time.

First thing on the agenda though: find a place where there’s pints of ale and British people. I don’t want to have a squeaky voice again, ya know? I’m leaving in three days. Well, two, I guess. It’s still hard for me to fathom moving away permanently. I know, everyone says I’ll be back, and never say never, but I won’t be the same. I keep watching commercials for shows at the end of the week, or seeing notices for plays I’d like to see and thinking “well, I’ll miss that…I wonder what’s playing at home now?” And I have no way of knowing, so it’s a very disconnected feeling. Soon all the necessary daily objects that fit into my city life will become souvenirs. I was talking to a friend the other night about how I was feeling: I always thought, somehow that I had made the Decision to come to London, study here, and that the rest would take care of itself…and now I’m faced with the need to make yet more choices about what to Do with myself. Only this time all the choices are equally appealing and cool. The only thing I know is that I am choosing to come back to America, and that I must do Theatre. Now is not the time for temping, getting money ahead, saving for “the future.” The future is here. The day has come. It’s very exciting.

PS: Next year’s scene painting project? If you look closely in the middle you can see the auld one-handed adulterer, as Joyce referred to him.

Friday, March 16, 2007

This is my 300th post on this blog. It is a poem I wrote for Grandma (but don't tell her, it's a surprise)

"Look! I have brought you a present!
Flowers in my hair.
I have returned to you with a headful of memories
And clothes perfumed with a far off city. Look!
I have brought you a present: I have returned to you,
New and improved."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

To rule them all!

I've been wandering around the city for the past few days, absorbing it, if you will, and my feet are so sore that I can barely stand up now. I've worn out my elegant European sneakers. Alas. Today I went to see "Citizens and Kings" an exhibit of painting in in the time of Revolution and Enlightenment (1760-1830) because that's probably my favourite time period. Period. The show was really interesting, but I was well peeved that the first room was called "Rulers" and yet they hung George Washington's portrait in the next room called "New Statesmen." Granted, he was framed in the doorway, so if you were standing in the right place he APPEARED to be in the Rulers room, and, okay, technically he never "ruled" although he did, infact, rule, but still. Diss! Washington for king!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

friends who will love you like a maniac...

Some of the staff at the Fynn went out for a drink after the show, but I didn’t because I can’t bear to watch the best friends best friending it up around each other. I don’t begrudge them their happiness, but it makes me long for the people that I knew at Point who are now scattered to the four winds. I invested so much energy and love into them that I don’t have the stamina or the desire to do it again. I’ve learned that not everyone I’ve met will become a Friend, sometimes you just drift apart, or leave, or sometimes you meet more interesting people. It happens. I miss my friends. To that end, I think I’ve finally decided to move to Chicago which is close (well, closer) to everyone and do the unthinkable: theatre. Anyone got a freezing garrett what needs moving into?

Today I went to see Benjamin Franklin’s house. I didn’t realize that he lived in London for nearly twenty years before the War of American Independence. His house is just off the Strand, and apparently the landlady’s son-in-law used to perform illegal dissections there, because they found the bodies of nearly ten people in the cellar. The tour itself was somewhat disappointing: the house has been “renovated” to the period, (the staircase was so period-y uneven that I nearly fell down and killed myself in a period manner) but there is no furniture, no paintings, no rugs, nothing, not even wood for the fireplaces. The tour guide, a woman in costume, took us from room to room where recorded conversations played which she would join in or not while projections helped keep track of who was speaking. It was more interesting as a piece of theatre than as a tour, but I found the lack of information frustrating—I learned almost nothing about Franklin, nor about the London of his time. The actress couldn’t deviate from her script, and she disappeared before the end so we couldn’t ask questions. Although I suspect she wouldn’t have been able to answer them anyway. I suspect that my five quid would have been better spent on a biography of Franklin, which I’ll probably do anyway. The best part happened when I left the house and walked into a group of tourists on a walking tour. I was putting my hat on (when wearing period hats, one must observe the rules of the period, which includes taking your hat off when you’re indoors) and the tour guide shouted out “Nice hat!” which prompted me to give him my best courtly bow. I think I’m going to end up in a couple photo albums.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Like my hat?

Oh WEEP ye jealous mortals, ye envious clay!

(why is it I always get a new hat on a bad hair day?)

And yes—before you ask, I’ve worn it outside, in public, with actual people. No one has said anything yet, but I can’t figure out if that’s the famous British reserve or not being able to figure out what they’re seeing (“is it some new fashion trend?!” “Yes.”) or if they’re just green with envy.

I have to confess, gentle readers, that owing to a certain indisposition on Saturday, I didn’t make it to Apsley House. And when I presented myself bright and bushy-tailed this afternoon, the house was closed. I thought I sensed a malicious presence behind the door giggling at my frustration, but that was probably my imagination. Probably. Luckily. Covent Garden was still open, so I did a bit of shopping. I very nearly bought an antique makeup case with an ornate “N” on it that I thought looked like Napoleon’s seal…which was sitting right next to a bust of the emperor himself. The guy behind the counter offered it to me for £25 which caused a short bark of derision. I may not be an expert in antiques, but I was pretty sure I had seen the Napoleon bust at a tourist stop in France. Then I had to go waltzing into Nauticalia and to finally buy the pack of Nelson playing cards I’ve had my eye on (they were on sale!!!) and also a Nelson bottle stopper, which I intend to stick into a bottle of Napoleon brandy in a highly ironic manner. I managed to not buy a scale model of the Victory, but only because I really can’t justify useless objets d’art unless they started life as theatre props. That, and the ones on display were tacky and plastic. I considered buying the wooden model (on sale for £200!) and making a project of it, but decided I have shipped (ha!) enough stuff home for one trip. I also, somehow, said no to a signed program of Richard III with Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Somehow. It was hard…I did ask the seller if he’d be back next Monday…oh, I tempt myself. Lessee: Food/Olivier. Food/Olivier. Food/Olivier….

Then I went to see “The Entertainer” at the Old Vic. I wanted to see it mostly for it’s value as a revival of an old and groundbreaking play, but I was completely drawn into the story. It’s about Archie Rice, a music-hall entertainer who is trying to keep his form of entertainment going while his family slowly decomposes around him. It’s quite shouty, but the playwright managed to keep it from being a mess and everyone got their points across. I’m fascinated by this script. I would have loved to sit in on rehearsals. The performances were amazing—no, not amazing, they were inspired. There was no “Development” of “Character:” everyone arrived onstage fully formed and totally willing to launch into this savage piece. It was so good. I’m going to buy the DVD of the movie when I get home—Laurence Olivier first created the role, and he’s in the movie. Wait—how have I not mentioned that yet?! Oh right: because this play was BRILLIANT and all you people reading this in Britain should go see it.

Friday, March 09, 2007


I offered to come into the theatre today to help out with auditions for another show, only to discover that we have water coming through the roof--not a great deal, but it's enough to have to put down a couple buckets to catch the drips. Not exactly the sort of professional image the theatre wants to present to potential actors. Another reason I came in was because the general manager shamelessly played on my internet addiction and said I could use the computer--the connection at home is prone to crashing my computer. I am going to send out another batch of resumes this afternoon, as soon as I get the theatre lights on(and put down cloths to protect our lovely cream carpet. The more I think about going out to California, the more I don't want to. I've already been away from home and family for so long that to take another nine months suddenly seems really difficult. I want to start my own company, and that's not going to happen if I keep skipping off to foreign places and working for other people. I do, however, want to keep working in a theatre, even if I'm applying for grants and looking for directors, so I'm trying to get hooked up with a company in the Midwest for a few months. Or not. Maybe I'll just go back to temping and become middle class. That would be nice too. :)

Not much else going on: I'm going to visit Apsley House tomorrow, where the Duke of Wellington lived. Not because I care about Wellington (wanker) but because he stole a lot of Napoleon's things which is what I'd like to see. Interesting note about Wellington: one of the stage managers at the theatre told me that her great-great-however many greats-grandfather was actually an illegitimate child of the Duke. I don't think she appreciated it when my first impulse was "sorry" though. And speaking of dukes--or rather, not--the House of Lords has voted to make the House of Lords an almost entirely voted in governing body. Which is somewhat unprecedented--it would be like the Senate voting to give themselves a pay cut. I don't know much about the House of Lords other than they like fox hunting and when you get a title you have to make a speech, and that Laurence Olivier did a damnfine job of it in "That Hamilton Woman." (I would quote here, but my DVD is somewhere on a boat right now....jealous....)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

bits and pieces...

I mentioned to Deb how my suitcase has more room in it than I thought, after I gave her half of my wardrobe, and she promptly gave me four shirts and a hat. Check out those collarbones—Kate Moss, eat your heart out! Or not, since you are a supermodel.

Don’t hold out too much hope for me but…I did spend an hour writing today. Shock! The first time in months. Any good? Who cares?! Afterward I went to the Inland Revenue today to fill out a tax form for getting back my income tax since I am not a British Citizen. The Inland Revenue office is located in big building called Bush House, and is right across the street from Somerset House, where Nelson used to pick up his paycheck. Then I stopped in at the place where I used to temp to say hello to everyone and drop off some flyers for the show. It was so lovely to see everyone—and to have people come flying down the hall, fling their arms around me and go “oh, we really miss you!” instead of what happened when I got to the theatre: “Nicole, you don’t really have to wash out my costume, it’s fine.” “No, it needed washing.” “No, really, don’t.” “No, I insist.” “Oh, well…okay. Thanks.” You’re welcome.

Randomest moment of the day was this exchange I overheard at Earls’ Court:

Woman 1: “…so, I don’t know, it just seems like a lot of work, you know, like a lot of studying and reading and stuff like that.”
Woman 2: “Yeah, so I guess you’ll never marry a Jewish man then.”
Woman 1: “Yeah. I could become a Buddhist though…”

At which point I went scrambling for my journal to make a record. I’m not real up to date on Buddhism, but I’m pretty sure they read books too. I’m sad that my journal is almost full—full to the point of I have to buy a new one tomorrow. This one goes from June of last year until now and is so full of odds and ends, stories, ticket stubs and pictures of Nelson that it’s practically a work of art. I will be sorry to lock it away with all the others but, well, all good things must come to an end.

Monday, March 05, 2007

"because you idiot, it's dull, it'll hurt more!"

I can’t tell you his name, but I will say that we had a famous actor in the audience yesterday. Don't want to name drop and be unprofessional. No siree. Although, if "Colonel Brandon" means anything to you, you know who I'm talking about. Anna knows him and had been promising he would come in--getting all nervous in the process. I had a plethora of interesting things lined up to talk about: his recent play at the Royal Court (or “the Court” as my friend Sarah once referred to it and has yet to live down), how he liked our play, etc. And then how does Anna go and introduce me? “This is Nicole! She loves Harry Potter! She has a Harry Potter tattoo!” and off she goes to mingle, leaving him rolling his eyes at me and probably thinking I’m some kind of rabid fangirl. No, actually, he was quite nice—taller in real life—but he made some disparaging remarks about the set which made me think he likes his own opinion quite a lot. Anna told me later that he had majored in stage design before becoming an actor. I wish I could have been a little more intelligent, but at least I didn’t ask him for his autograph—unlike the waitress at the restaurant where they went that night—as I was also rushing off to a party and was worried about missing my friends. I did, however, squeeze his arm on my way out the door and trill “Looking forward to Sweeney Todd!” I’m such a dork.

Today is Monday! Glorious Monday. I was going to go to Bath today, until I discovered that train tickets are £50 the day of, and £18 a week in advance, so...I'm going next Monday! Today I went to see "The Science of Sleep" which was B+ good. Gael Garcia Bernal was, of course, fabulous. I think I might cast him as the Neapolital rebel Caracciolo in my Nelson movie. I'm sure he can speak Italian, since he managed French, Spanish AND English in this movie. Apparently he can also breathe underwater, something which doesn't surprise me. And now, since I have a night off, I'm going to actually cook dinner tonight: salmon and rice and spinach. Yes, spinach. Apparently I have a taste for it. Who knew?

Friday, March 02, 2007

why am I always on a plane or fast train?

Traveling...but not in love, still I think I'm doing fine. O what a world we live in! I've been turned onto Rufus Wainwright, and I'm completely enamoured of his song "Oh What a World." I had plenty of time to listen to it tonight whilst waiting for the number picks me up at Westminster, gives me a beautiful view of London as we cross over the Westminster Bridge and then drops me off twenty feet from home. Although I'm not sure it was worth a thirty minute wait tonight. Oh well.

I'm reading "The Talented Mr. Ripley" which is quite good, although I can't get the feeling out of my head that I'm the main character. I love where I'm living, but it has a slightly unreal feel to it since it's so beautiful and unlike anywhere I've ever been. I'm miles away from everyone and most of the people I knew from London are gone or busy. I'm staying out of the way, mostly. I don't want to get too caught up in people's projects and then have to leave in three weeks. Mostly I'm happy, but the cloud of going home hovers over all. It doesn't help that it's Spring! here, full on spring, with daffodils and lilies of the valley and clusters of crocus...

I did get our deposit back today from the apartment (less £25, which I suspect was just the landlord being cranky) so now I have a little breathing room on the money "sitch." And I'm healing nicely from the trauma of moving--I managed to not throw my back out this time, and the blister on my finger is healing nicely. Remember back in October 2005 (see blog archive) when the power went out for three days in my dorm? I used my cup of loose change as a candle holder, so I've had about 25 pence rolling around, stuck together with candlewax. Before I moved I got the brilliant idea of making a little tinfoil boat and holding it over the cooker until the wax melted off the coins. Worked like a charm! I was so impressed with my ingenuity that I tried to pick up a coin before it was quite cool and...yeah. Not the smartest thing I've done. Still, it's just a little bump from the side of the coin--it could have been worse, I could have QE II imprinted in my finger.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

steal this internet

All I’m saying is, if people don’t put a password on their wireless internet, they’re basically asking for it to get stolen. Is all I’m saying.

The show went very well tonight, no thanks to me: I usually put the lights up for awhile before the show to warm up the theatre--I know, I know, it’s not the purpose God intended them for, but it’s either that or I come it at noon to run the heaters—and tonight I forgot to put them down before running the show. So, come the first blackout…no blackout. Thirty seconds of panic later and everything was okay, but…I think the actresses are getting a little exasperated with me. Last night the sound didn’t cut in the right place because I got the computer screwed up with the CD player and hit the wrong button, and tonight I just lost my focus. I blame the jerk in the pub. The theatre is above a pub, hence the name pub theatre, and since last summer it’s been reopened by a guy who looks sort of like a “Sopranos” extra—let’s call him Tony. Tony’s okay, but we in the theatre can’t figure out why he bought this pub, since there’s hardly anyone in it except for him and his gangster-wannabe friends who sit around in their leather coats and their gold chains watching racing. Some of us also suspect they use illegal substances. It is not the type of place I would frequent, let us say. (I prefer pubs with names like “The George” and “The Lord Nelson” that have dark woodwork, squishy stools and fireplaces.) Anyway, tonight when I went down to make the announcement the theatre was open, one of the pub’s “patrons” a tall, scrummy looking black guy was coming out of the toilets and he looked me up and down and goes “Helloo girl.” This happened before once—I came through the door and he looked up from the sofa and said “Helloo” in this disgusting scrummy voice. Tonight I was so incensed that he would A) call me a girl and B) have the audacity to assume that it was OKAY for a scrummy old man to hit on a perfectly normal woman who was doing nothing to invite it, that I just looked at him and said “No. NO.” Then he laughed and went “Aw, what do you mean, no? No?” And laughed some more.

This happened, oh, roughly four hours ago, and I’m still incensed about it. Down from “livid” but still pretty mad. One of the other women at the theatre mentioned that he’s done it to her as well, and also to some of the actresses that have been around. So now I’m triply mad that this person feels perfectly free to prey on theatre folk—God knows there aren’t any women in that pub for him to hit on. I’m quadruply mad that the only suggestions open to me are to ignore the guy, or to talk to Tony and ask him to tell his mate to knock that sh*t off. Yeah. Right. I can just see what would happen the next time I run into Scrummy Guy: “Hey, Tony said I shouldn’t talk to you anymore. What’s the matter, girl?” And then I would be forced to remove his eyeballs with my fingernails. I begin to see why women marched in the streets in the sixties. You Sir. You do NOT have permission to hit on me. GO AWAY. If I say nothing, he wins. If I make someone else go do the calls, he’ll just hit on them. If I tell Tony to talk to him, I’ll come across as a frigid cow. If I kick him where it counts, I’ll get arrested.
Although it would mean I’d get to stay in Britain for the trial…well, maybe when the show goes down.