travel changes you

Last month on our trip, we spent over half our time in Cambodia.  Once there, we resolved to learn what had actually happened with the Khmer Rouge.  We knew it would be grim, but it seemed irresponsible and disrespectful to just sort of know that some kind of genocide had happened.

So we bought and read a few history books.  We went to the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh to pay our respects.  We hired a private guide.  She was in her early 40s, a survivor of the regime.  She broke down in tears by the end of our tour.

Here's an awkward situation:
"I'm so sorry.  I see that I should leave you alone.  ...Should I pay you now?"

Here's what feels tacky:
Handing four dollars to a woman who is sobbing over the death of her father, brother, and 1/4 of her country.

Okay, here's the point:
that was horrible.
Learning about the regime. Seeing its immediate effects. Standing in the rooms, walking past the graves, seeing the bones.  Seeing the victims.  Their faces in their mugshots after they'd been hauled in and they knew it was just a matter of how much pain before they died.
Hanging out with girls my age, then learning they grew up on the streets because their parents were murdered.  I could go on. There are things we saw that neither of us has been able to mention again, to each other, certainly not to other people.
It was horrible.

Here is my point:

I don't know how to deal with this. 

The play I'm in is set against the Lebanese civil war, and we're doing a lot of research on it. One actor brought in this image:

No one reacted very strongly.  A girl next to me said she loved his pants.
I wanted to puke, the violence and the reality of it upset me so much. I hate looking at it.
I do think that two months ago I would have known, in-my-brain known that it was real, but I still would have processed it as a scene from a movie.

The artistic director of this theater company I'm working with spent time working in refugee camps in the Middle East. I know I could never stop any of the suffering that's out there, but at least I could push back against it somehow.
or am I just trying to figure out how to deal with this in my brain?


sometimes failure is a relief.

I was on hold all weekend to shoot a national commercial.

A really, really bad commercial for an unnamed fast food seafood chain.

In this commercial, there are two women. One is extolling the virtues of the fast food chain's Super Family Deal to the other, with the emphasis on fried things included in meal.  Stupid but straightforward.

So I get paired up with another actress, a talented smart gal and friend of many years. We go in together.

Director:  Okay, I want you to get REALLY excited about this, especially the [fried things].  I've been telling ladies all day: it's like you're really excited, because there's a really great shoe sale! It's that exciting.

Me and Other Capable Actress Friend: (...shoes?)  oh, okay. Sure. 

We do the scene. We get really excited about the fried things.  REALLY excited.

Director: Good. But, I mean, you're telling her: Hey! They have these really GREAT shoes!  Or... you know, something you'd get really excited about. (he thinks for a moment) Like purses or something.  Great purses over here! Don't buy this purse, there are these BETTER purses and these are Prada! or whatever.

Me and Other Capable Actress Friend: More enthusiasm, no problem. Got it.

We do the scene again, this time reaching what I find to be a pretty ridiculous, borderline satirical level of joy at the prospect of getting a good deal on fried things.

Director: Okay. Better.  But you really want to tell her - hey!  Don't get these shoes!  There are these really great shoes you should know about!  Or the purses, think about purses!  Or... or... I don't know, great clothes, or like, makeup---

Me: or, say, LEGAL JOURNALS.

Female casting director: (involuntary snort of laughter)

(Director stares at me, baffled. Because 'legal journals' wasn't really the best comeback, FINE, but I at least made my point and I was kind of over having my intelligence insulted by a man hawking FRIED CRISPYNIBBLETBARNACLES)

Director: ...uh. yeah.

(a beat)

Director: oh you mean like those little moleskin journals. Oh, okay, yeah.

(I did not make my point.)

We do the scene again, calling to mind a world where no one has fried anything for seven years and the long wait is over, to be celebrated with days of feasting, games and possibly a large effigy of fried nibblet barnacles, which we will all eat and then smear each other with the oil thereof.

THAT is how we did the scene. 
He seemed mildly satisfied.

...Later I was paired with another friend.  When it came to the line about the fried things she closed her eyes in bliss and sang the name of the fried food.  The director looooooved it.

I hope she booked it (she earned it), and I also hope that director eats a dick.  Not booking that job was one welcome failure.

first day

Tonight is my first night of rehearsal. 

My pencils are sharpened, my script is highlighted, three-hole-punched and clamped neatly into my binder.  I haven't started agonizing over what to wear, but that's definitely next.  I only know one kid in my cast.  I hope the others are nice.  I hope the director likes me.  I hope this is fun and good. 



I guess I could try to make this about something bigger, but I may as well skip the boring allegory.  Here's what happened:  my real-life-flesh-and-blood cousin just lost her 6 month old baby, who was shaken to death by my cousin's (hopefully ex by now) boyfriend.

Everyone in the family keeps trying to find a logic for it.  For example, my mother keeps reminding me that the (hopefully ex by now) boyfriend has a lot of tattoos.  Or, tonight "that poor girl doesn't need anyone pointing fingers at her right now, but she really made some bad choices." My grandmother insisted she didn't have her address, pointedly stating that "I have no idea what her name even is anymore."  (My reaction seems to be avoiding the situation by pointing out my mothers' bad behavior.)

In my brain as I do housework and think about my poor poor cousin, who also lost her father just 6 months back: fair and unfair.
About the tragedy itself.
About people's reactions to the tragedy.
About what we can and can't control and why we respond how we do. 

My metaphorical-larger-sense cousin Scott lost someone earlier this year.  Emotions run high. Old grudges surface.  He said 'there is a window of time where anyone is allowed to say anything, and it has to be okay.  You chalk it up to grief.'

I think that's fair. Sort of a supreme fairness.

It doesn't help my cousin much right now, though.  Neither does my stupid card.  Or the nightmare I had last night where I witnessed miles and miles of slaughter and carnage and could do nothing but cry and keep walking.


hi, welcome back to my blog, my trip was nice.