Thursday, February 26, 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again

In the last couple of days there have been stories about the death (at 43) of a quadriplegic Irishman named Christy Nolan, a sufferer of extreme cerebral palsy who managed to write poetry and prose by means of something called a unicorn stick - which I logically assume must be some sort of pointer attached to his forehead. His book, Under the Eye of the Clock, won a prestigious British literary prize (the Whitbread, I think).

I can't tell you how odd it seemed to me to read about this. You see, back in 1970, a book came out called Down All the Days, by a man named Christy Brown...who suffered from severe cerebral palsy (also quadriplegic) and used his left foot to write (and paint, for that matter). Mr. Brown also wrote a book called My Left Foot (an autobiography, obviously), which was filmed with Daniel Day-Lewis playing him - and which, by the by, got a great deal of publicity when it came out (1989) about Mr. Day-Lewis' struggles to maintain the cramped and twisted position of Mr. Brown's body.

I don't know about anyone else, but I find this fascinating and somewhat weird, that not one but TWO quadriplegic Irishmen, suffering from the same disease to the same degree, both managed to write enormously well-received books. More than one, for that matter. As a good Irishwoman, I personally think it just goes to show that there is no possible way you can shut the Irish up, even if they can't talk. You've got to admit this is interesting.

My social security came through! New computer coming up! Yahoo! Sarah's coming with me to buy it on Sunday. She sensibly feels I shouldn't be left alone to buy a computer, and I think she's right. I have no problem using them, but the finer points tend to elude me when I'm buying them. I either go for something that's got way too much stuff for me, or find something that hasn't got enough. For instance, to use the word processing feature on this lousy Mac, I had to download a free trial of it, because Joshua never thought to check that it came loaded. See, I'd do that, because being a PC user, I automatically assume that something like that is there, and it wouldn't ever occur to me to check.

Meanwhile, I have spent some money. However, I'm quite proud of myself, because I spent almost all of it in good causes as pertains to my career (what there is of it at the moment). Yesterday I finally took the CD of those new headshots I got done over to Modern Age (this is the photo processing joint where I, along with every other actor in NY, have been taking my headshots for damn near 40 years) to get nice prints made for stage audition purposes - for film I use online casting and email, but for stage you have to turn up with an actual hard copy photo in your hot little hand. So I got that done. I was going to do a few other things while I was in midtown, but Caesar called and I was getting fairly tired of tromping around, so I said the hell with it.

Today I went back uptown to the Drama Book Store to find a monologue to use for that Williamstown audition next week. I vaguely remembered a middle-aged society dame in Lend Me A Tenor, but while indeed there is one, she doesn't have a monologue. So I picked up a copy of Noel Coward's Hayfever instead (which is about a semi-retired middle-aged actress who doesn't really want to retire) which, with a little judicious cobbling together of speeches, will do fine. The reason behind this is that two of the plays they're doing in Williamstown have middle-aged actresses as, logically...

I also stopped at the wig/hair/beauty store at 35th and 8th (a great source for all kinds of interesting oddities, mostly in the hair department). I got all kinds of stuff - don't start laughing - like rollers, clips, an actual hair dryer with a bonnet as opposed to the new kind, hair spray, and setting lotion. I realize that to all you young things out there, this sounds like the Dark Ages, but you have to understand that I have been wearing my hair either extremely short (hair routine: get in shower, wash hair, run comb through hair) or long (routine: get in shower, wash hair, comb hair, pull into ponytail) for quite some time. The reason it was always pulled back when it was long before is that I had (like my child) extreme frizz head. The only way to keep it out of my face (and everybody else's) was to yank it back. However, when menopause turned up, for some odd reason, my hair went, I don't know either, but I'm thrilled. Unfortunately, without the frizz, it turned out to be pretty thin (actually I think this is menopause too). So if I use, say, the curling iron, the piece stays curled for about 30 seconds and then just flops. And I have never gotten the hang of blow drying.

I think trying to remember how to set my hair properly will be quite fun, even if (like a few weeks back, if you recall, when I ended up with that awful pouffy thing on my head) it turns out horribly. What the hell. I can always pull it back, right?

Aside from all that, I have been treating myself to food and three magazines...last night, Chinese, today, a stop at Gourmet Garage for shrimp. Boy, this is fun. Now I'll settle down like a good girl and save my money...and play with my hair.

Love, Wendy

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Also snore.

I am bored out of my wits. Last week there were things happening, but this week (so far) is a total, dead blank.

Last week we had a couple of old family friends staying for a couple of days, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and niece and nephew turned up on Tuesday for a family get together, which was fun. Then on Friday night there was a birthday gathering in Williamsburg...but since then, absolutely nothing.

By the way, in re Williamsburg, how on earth do people who live there get anywhere? I basically knew where I was going (the Radegast Beer Hall, which has amazing bratwurst), but I got off at the wrong end of the station, so I was a block or so off the route I took to get there last time. Naturally, I stopped people to ask directions (being a female and not a male), and none of them knew what I was talking about. Now, I wasn't asking people who were obviously on dates, because dating pairs have a tendency to be wrapped up in each other and not their surroundings. No, I was stopping people with strollers and bags of groceries...and not one single one of them could tell me where North 3rd Street was. And I was a block away from it! I mean, I live in Greenwich Village, which has a street plan (if you could call it a plan) totally different than the rest of the city...New York is on a grid, which you can clearly see on a map. If you look at a map of Greenwich Village, it looks more like a plate of spaghetti (this is probably why I can find my way around London, which has the same sort of plan - i.e., nonexistent). But when tourists stop me to ask directions, I know what to tell them, for God's sake - I live here. The Brooklynites had absolutely no idea...I kept wondering how these people people ever found their way home...or if they did.

So now that my Population Council job has ended, which it did a week ago last Friday (they were very sweet...thanked me effusively and gave me a little tote bag), I have absolutely nothing to do...of course, I haven't checked in with any of my three temp agencies, since I'm now on full unemployment and just didn't feel like it, but I think I will, because the boredom is really getting to me. It's not that I actually feel like getting up at 5 am to do one of those rotten business seminars or whatever, but on the other hand, I seem to be sleeping my life away here. Get up, eat, read papers, go take nap, get up, play with computer, eat, go to bed. Oh, yawn, yawn, yawn.
The only interesting thing I've done is watch the Oscars, which I enjoyed thoroughly. This may, of course, be because I have an enormous crush on Hugh Jackman, but come on...who can resist the dresses, the idiocy, the possibility of an upset? Not that there was any mystery about this year. I must say, though, that I'm in love with the whole Slumdog Millionaire crew...really, have you ever seen a happier bunch of people? And rightfully so...and I was charmed by the idea of them bringing as many of the people involved in the movie to the Oscars as possible, including those adorable kids. That's the way to do it.

Ah, well. I'll take the rest of this week to slump around, then on Thursday I'll email all my agencies and announce that I'm one more ready to be a good little worker bee...unless, of course, one of the nine million movies I've submitted myself for comes through, although casting directors are ignoring me in droves at the moment. Oh, and I've got an audition next week for the Williamstown, Mass. Theatre Festival - God bless them, they're doing a season absolutely full of roles"experienced" actors. Yeah, all right, middle aged. It would be nice to get away from NY for at least a few weeks this summer, other than my kid's birthday, which she seems to be having in France. Of course, she won't pay me, and Williamstown will. We shall see.

Love, Wendy

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dancing Through the Cookbooks

In an effort to reduce my footprint a bit (and to have less to move when I actually do a. find a buyer for this place, and b. find an apartment for myself), I have been culling my cookbooks.

Boy, I sure do have a lot of useless junk around the house. Admittedly, I'm addicted to cookbooks, but still...for instance, I have about eight books by James Beard. I don't even LIKE James Beard. I split up with him when I discovered that he thinks chicken should be pink at the bone, which nauseates me. So (with the exception of his hors d'oeuvres book, which I love), out they went.

Then I got rid of all the Gourmet and Bon Appetit annuals, which I'd been slavishly buying (at the Strand, of course), because it occurred to me that I read these damn magazines every month and cut out the recipes I want - why do I need them in books?

At any rate, you get the picture.

However, one of the things I came across was the first microwave cookbook I ever bought (the second was Barbara Kafka's wonderful one, which I'm keeping because it's the best reference ever for the microwave). This would be around the time I bought my first microwave, which would be when Matthew and I got married in 1988, because we had a gift certificate for Zabar's. In case you don't know this, and few people do, the second floor of Zabar's is an absolute wonderland of cooking equipment at wonderful prices...if you cook, check it out.

At any rate, this little book was evidently published in the first wave of America's fascination with the microwave, and you would not believe the things it tells you a microwave can do. Which, by the way, it can't. Matthew and Sarah and I once went to dinner at the home of an old friend of his whose wife (who departed in the middle of the night for greener pastures, leaving him with the baby, quite shortly thereafter - although I don't think we had anything to do with it) cooked us perhaps one of the worst meals I've ever eaten...beef stew cooked in a microwave. Unseasoned, even to salt and pepper. This book is just chockfull of little gems like that - such as the page I'm looking at now, which tells you how to make an omelet in the microwave. It takes 3 minutes. Making an omelet in a pan takes 30 seconds. Why are you screwing around with the damn microwave?

Another page I just got to has "Tips for Roasting Meat in the Microwave" - which is an impossibility. They also suggest you make meatballs in the microwave. No, again.

But my favorite is a "recipe" for "Boiling Water in Bulk." According to this, boiling 6 cups of water takes 7 to 8 minutes in a microwave. Why on earth...

What a microwave does: Reheats anything (leftover pasta that doesn't stick together! yay!)
Vegetables! Artichokes and asparagus in more waiting 45 minutes for an artichoke, and no more screwing up the damn asparagus when the phone rings because it gets one second beyond its allotted time and goes all soggy and gray. Melting two sticks of butter fast, and reheating same when you get tangled up in something else and let it get cool. (I need timers in my kitchen - timers that reach out and grab you and yell "Get back to the stove, bitch, and quit running your mouth!") It will heat bread that has been in the freezer so that you can butter it and eat it (though you have to be careful with this one - two seconds off with the bread and you get can be done, though).

What you can't do in the microwave: Cook a large meal. Do the vegetables in it, yes (but NOT baked potatoes, which taste vile microwaved no matter what people say). Cook on the stove for anything else, for heaven's sake. That's what it's there for.

Boiling water in the microwave (except for a middle of the night cup of Sleepytime tea). Sheesh.

Love, Wendy

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Weirdness Reigns

Well, the good news is that Joshua says he's moving in two weeks. The bad news is that I don't think I'm going to be able to keep myself from having him committed before the two weeks is up.

He wants me to type this humongous list of his goddamn books for him, which I'm perfectly willing to do (anything to move him and the fool books along quickly), but it turns out that his computer has no word processing program on it. So I figured I'd download the free trial of whatever the Mac WP program is, right? I mean, after learning to run everything from the first word processor (the Lexitron, if you're interested) back in the '70s to the present day, I've managed to figure them all out. But of course, in order to download, I need his computer password. He doesn't have any idea what his password is.

Now, I know that he's computer-illiterate, but this is unbelievable. Even better than that, he wants me to type this whole long list out and then NOT SAVE case someone gets into his computer. Anyone who would like to explain to me why on earth anyone would WANT a long list of books is welcome to try.

Well, I informed him that in order to email the list to a client (which is what he wants to do with it), it HAS to be saved, and I managed to get him convinced of that. But then we ran into another problem.

It seems that welfare owes Joshua another lump of money - well, anyway, they're giving him a whole other lump of money. The "owes him" part is a little unclear to me, but I've given up trying to make my personal ethics coincide with Joshua and his damn welfare (oh, I'm sorry - DISABILITY). So he thought the government might have put it in his bank account. I tried to explain to him that if he hadn't set up direct deposit, they couldn't do that, and in any case they would have notified him, but he was having none of that. He had to walk the eight or ten blocks to his bank to find out if the money was in the account.

You ask why on earth he couldn't check his account online or at an ATM? Well, it seems that even though he has a bank account and a perfectly good ATM card, he won't use the card. He won't use the card because - wait for it - he "doesn't want the Chechens using his bank account." Yes. According to my cousin, Slavic separatists (or whatever the hell the Chechens are) are just lying in wait for everybody who uses an ATM, and he doesn't want them to know his bank account number. And God forbid he should ever put his bank account number online for any reason, because they'd get him.

This gets even weirder, because a couple of weeks ago he ordered something online and used his damn ATM card to do it! And no matter how much I try to explain to him that he is now in receipt of monthly Government funds, and anybody who wants his personal information can get it extremely easily, he still insists that by walking ten blocks to find out what his bank balance is, he's protecting himself - from what, I don't know. But I'm pretty sure it's little green men.

Love, Wendy

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Still Here...

I know, it's been a while. Sorry about that - I think it has something to do with hating this damn Mac computer.

Also, I've been relatively busy, oddly enough. Sarah and I went to see Billy Elliott, I went to a lovely dinner party, and we had a play reading here at the house yesterday. And an old family friend and her son are coming in to stay with me for a couple of days as of the you see, life has been busy. Oh, and I'm going to an audition on the 17th. So there. Busy, busy, busy.

To take all these mad activities in order...Billy Elliott. I enjoyed it with reservations - Sarah hated it. For a quick rundown of the plot, for those of you who may not know, it's the story of a 10 year boy, son of a coal miner, who discovers he has a talent for ballet, and his efforts to be allowed to study it. It started out as a lovely movie, then got made into a musical in London, then came here. It's set against the background of the 1980's miners' strike in the north of England - Maggie Thatcher time.

This background is problem one. I think it's pretty unlikely that most Americans know much of anything about that particular time and place, and in one scene in particular it could help a great deal - when the father breaks the picket line to do a day's work in the mine for the money. However, I suppose that's a fairly minor quibble.

The other two things that got me were 1. the fact that the choreographer seemed to be a frustrated moving man. There were all these wooden chairs on stage, and every single damn time anybody wanted to do anything, they started carrying the damn chairs around, which got to look pretty odd after a while. I mean, this was not a minimal set, people - sets rose and fell hydraulically, etc., etc., etc. But everybody kept carrying the fool chairs around and dancing with them and singing with them...

And 2., there was a dance number in the show for Billy and his older self purporting to show the dancer Billy would become. Now at the end of the movie, you see the older Billy leaping on stage in Swan Lake, which is right and proper. And it would have been quite nice on started out that way, with Billy in front and the older dancer mirroring him behind. Unfortunately, some damn fool decided to fly Billy. What's worse, they decided to fly him by the seat of his pants...literally. Even worse, you could see the older dancer hooking up the harness very clearly. I'm sorry - I took ballet for many long aching years, and I've never come across any ballet moves requiring me to have a hook in my pants.

Oh, well. I enjoyed it anyway.

The dinner party was lovely, even if it did require me to shlep out to Brooklyn, for God's sake, into what looked like the most desolate area of Bushwick. Huge looming warehouses and not a soul on the street. This was the apartment in which Sarah used to live, and I'm damn glad I never got out there because I assure you I would have made her call me every damn night to tell me she got home safe. I've never seen anything so deserted. However, wonderful food by my pal Shai (quail! coq au vin! panna cotta with rose petal sauce!). Yeaahhh.

And then yesterday my pal Caesar and a gang of people (including good old Joe, one of my favorite guys ever) came over to read Caesar's play about Balzac, in which, God bless him, he has written a wonderful role for me in which I can act my little socks off.

I'm not terribly sanguine about this upcoming audition, however. It's a play called Flamingo Court, and they want women in their 60's. Really, everybody thinks I'm nuts when I bitch about my damn face, but the fact remains that I can't get roles that are the right age for me for the simple reason that I don't look my right age. I look ten years younger. I mean, I AM in my 60's, for God's sake, and I'll bet you anything they'll tell me I'm too young. Maybe I should just have my birth certificate transferred to a T-shirt.

Joshua has found a new form of annoying behavior (God, he's good). He has evidently decided that he's going to stop me from smoking - or at least fuss about it. This takes the form of his ostentatiously refusing to share the kitchen table with me. Unfortunately, this one is backfiring on him, because A. I don't give a damn whether he shares the table (and would actually prefer him not to because he talks all the time and it's annoying), and B. I flat out refuse to ask him WHY he's eating in the greatest possible discomfort either over the kitchen sink or on a tray table in the living room. So he goes on doing this to get a rise out of me, but since I'm ignoring it, he can't get anywhere. Not to mention the fact that, particularly in the case of eating on the kitchen counter, he's right next to my cigarette smoke anyway, so I don't quite see what he thinks he's accomplishing. Anyway, as I keep telling him, it's MY damn house.

Love, Wendy