Archive for January, 2010

I Love You J.D. Salinger

I can’t stop thinking about J.D. Salinger. It may be trite to say, but I love J.D. Salinger. Trite, because really everybody loves J.D. Salinger. Except maybe my redheaded stepmother, who I think never read a book in her life. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m sure my other stepmother never read him either, because her reading choices never ventured beyond Sidney Sheldon.

Yes, definitely the making of an actress. Two horrid stepmothers, a stepfather, and two, or three estranged parents, depending on whose story you believe.

I discovered J.D. Salinger when I stole Catcher In The Rye from my big sister and read it. I tried to hand in a book report on it in seventh grade and it was rejected because it was on a list of unsuitable books or something. It was Westchester after all. They told my mother I was reading unsuitable books, but really she could care less.

So one Sunday, when I was making the usual stop after church with father no. 2 to pick up the Sunday paper at Lippy’s, the candy/toy/comic book/book store, I checked under S and found more books by this Salinger guy. I saved my allowance and eventually got to buy all three. For the longest time I kept looking for more of them, until somebody tipped me off that no more were ever gonna come. Ever.

I took them with me when I had to go to Massachusetts to visit the first father and his second wife, the redheaded stepmother. It was horrible there. The only saving grace was that they had a dog, who I spent all my time with. Laddy. Laddy, the bright light in the long summer with the evil stepmother.

The stepmother who hated me.

And the first father, who tried to make up for everything by buying me things, which we had to hide in the trunk of his car until I left, because evil stepmother would be furious if she knew. The first father, who was tragically handsome, but could never get the family thing right. He really wanted a wife and kids and a dog, he really did. He just didn’t know how to do it. His mother was a divorced chorus girl who went back on the road with some follies or other and left her boys with various uncaring, unkind relatives. I heard he kept running away. So he didn’t know how the family thing was supposed to work or something, I guess.

I will never forget the long boring summer in the town of one-story houses. The baking heat with not a tree in sight. Flat. Hot.

The stepmother who couldn’t clean or cook. She specialized in flirting with other people’s husbands. They actually moved a lot because of her affairs with neighborhood married men. Even though I was a kid, I kind of thought “Fuck you Daddy,” in the back of my mind, “You cheated on Mommy with the redhead and now you got what you deserved.”

The other thing she was good at, was watching T.V. The minute the father put the key in the ignition to head off for work, the kids were thrown in the backyard, the shades went down and the television was switched on. She sat there all day smoking cigarettes with her short nails with the red nail polish. I always admired her hands. They were the opposite of my hands. She had long fingers and wore a big fat wedding ring. Her short nails were big enough for polish. My hands were small little things with tiny nail beds. They were no match for hers. Next to her ashtray was a bottle of beer that she spent the afternoon with. Shlitz or some awful thing. Merv Griffin was the high point of her day. “Merv is on, “ she would say. I would come in from the glaring sunlight and watch it with her. How she kept her figure with all that beer was a mystery. Except thinking about it now, I never saw her eat. I know Irish people like that. They exist on drink. No food.

That summer she played Robert Goulet records on the stereo a lot. I know if Robert Goulet had lived in the neighborhood she would have had an affair with him. She was probably having fantasies that Robert Goulet would come and rescue her from that barren suburban landscape.

She couldn’t cook. If she tried pancakes, there was raw batter in the middle. Her vegetables were canned, which I found really frightening. I couldn’t eat her food and she would get really mad a t me. My mother was a great cook, and I had never seen such a thing. She once made these pink ham steaks with curdled milk on top. She made me sit there for hours staring at it because I wouldn’t eat it. The house smelled weird, which really depressed me.

So it was into this landscape that I brought J.D. Salinger. I remember sitting outside reading one of his books and feeling the deepest resonating joy. He picked out the stuff of life that was funny and sad-making at the same time. I had escaped the land of the stepmother in my mind. I could think different, be different, and rise above the finks. I was learning, like Lydgate in Middlemarch by George Eliot, “… that books were stuff, and that life was stupid.”

My whole persona at the time was influenced by Salinger. When a beau told me that when I talked I sounded like New Yorker magazine I was thrilled.

I hope there is a closet full of manuscripts in his house and they all get published. Because I MEAN REALLY it has been AGES since I stopped hunting for more of his books under S at Lippy’s. Which was sad-making and all. So I salute you my literary Big Daddy. And hope everything gets published, because the phony reviewers can’t bother you now.

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The Weekend Audition Has Got to Go!

Today was not the best day I’ve ever had. I had to go to an audition. On a Saturday. I resent the weekend audition. I do. I know I am supposed to be dedicated and willing to do anything for an acting job blah blah blah but the weekend audition still burns me up.

So, I had planned out my day the day before. I figured I had just enough time to take my weekly African Dance class with the live drummer– which is one of my favorite things in the world. I was raving about it to a musician friend of mine recently who responded with; “Oh really? What region of Africa?” To which I responded; “The Alvin Ailey region I think.”

But I digress. So I had it all planned out.

But, when I woke up this morning the alarm clock said 7:45 – plenty of time to walk the dog, have a cup of tea, some raisin toast and a sit down to polish up the monologue they sent me, and go to class and make the audition. However upon entering the kitchen I learned it was actually 10:00 am and the battery on my alarm clock had died. NOOOOOO.

So no time for anything. Must walk dog. Must feed dog. Trying to get ready with a dog clamped on to my left foot. No time to discipline dog. My husband says this is why he is Alpha dog and I am not. I try throwing a toy in between putting on eyeliner. I try to throw it far enough to finish one eye. She’s back. Throw it again. She’s back. Again, back, again, back, again, back. I am sure as shit this dog is a terrier. I never wanted a terrier. But I love her now so it is too late. I get up to go to the closet and she latches on to my foot again so I have to drag her into the living room to get the silver coasters off the cocktail table. The silver coasters are the only thing that will stop her when she is in clamping mode. I have to clang them together. Repeatedly. My husband thinks I am a moron because being Alpha dog he only has to look at her.

After coaster alert I forgot exactly where I was headed in the first place.

I finally get out the door and when I am two blocks away I realize I forgot to put the monologue I was going to brush up in my purse. Too late to go back. Run down the stairs to the A train. NO A OR C TRAINS RUNNING AT THIS STATION says the magic marker sign. Fucking weekends fucking track work. So I run to the 2,3 three blocks away. Asking myself seriously if this is worth it. When I get there there are 10 people staring at an elevator with open doors that isn’t moving. Finally the other elevator comes.

I get on the train and I swear I am seated across from an actress preparing a monologue. I’m not kidding. She knows hers by heart. She obviously doesn’t have a terrier puppy. It starts annoying me. I want to close my eyes and meditate for a minute but I can’t look away. She is mouthing the words complete with much eyebrow raising and crazy intense looks and jutting of the lower teeth out of her mouth. And darting looks back and forth. I swear. The head- back and forth and back and forth. And now a crazy look. And now a pumping of the eyebrows. I look at a folder she is carrying and read the word “Shakespeare” upside down. Ah hah! She is doing bombastic Shakespeare on the 2 train. It is so fucking annoying to me that I can’t stop looking. And why is no one else noticing I wonder? Until a Hispanic guy with headphones gets on the train and sits down next to her. He notices the bizarre behavior. So he looks her up and down very carefully to figure out if she is a crazy homeless. When he decides she isn’t he sits back and returns to Ipod world. Fine. Fine. Leave Cranky alone in her annoyance. It’s so great to be annoyed with some one else. It’s one of those days. Everything is annoying me. When a man hits me with his Toy Are Us bag and an entire third grade class on a field trip gets on the car, I am so sorry I didn’t stay home.

I make it to the audition with ten minutes to spare. When I go in I ask if they have a copy of the monologue and they say, “No but someone left one by accident on the chair.” I realize yes I should have stayed home. And after I do the monologue and they hand me sides and ask me to read a scene I’ve never seen before with no preparation I am mentally kicking myself for skipping brunch with my husband and friends. And to rub it in, they have an actress there who has a part in the film read with me and she sits in a chair on my upstage left side, so I have a choice of relating to her and having the back of my head to the camera or having my face to the camera and looking like I don’t know how to act. But does it really matter anymore?

When I go to take the same train back there are no trains running at that station so I have to walk eight blocks weaving my way through slow walking lumbering tourists who are walking four across on the sidewalk. Times Square on a Saturday – thanks again screwy filmmaker.  The city needs to implement my idea of tourist walking lanes on the sidewalk. When I finally get to the platform the doors of the car close in my face.

But I’m home now. I’m on the couch. The doggie is on the back of the couch looking out the window her arm resting in what I call “Statesman Pose”. All is quiet and contentment now.

She does seem like terrier but I’m also sure she has a lot of poodle. Every dog now is crossed with a poodle. There are Cockapoos, Jackadoodles, Dachapoos, Labradoodles. Someday the poodles will take over the world. People will start having their offspring crossed with them. “What are you having? A boy or a girl?” we will ask. Oh, I’m having a Boydoodle. They are completely hypoallergenic and smarter than the average boy.”

Cranky Has Gone To The Dogs

Am I still an actress? Will I ever get another job? Is anybody gonna call me again? Will I ever get another audition?

These are the questions I’ve been asking myself. Then I got an audition.
And I missed it. Why? Because my entire life is about peepee and poopie. Cranky has gone to the dogs.

A new dog takes over your entire life. Mentally and physically. Shampoo the carpet five times a day? No problem. Walk around for an hour in the rain so the dog can go home and directly pee on the carpet? An everyday occurrence. Follow the dog’s every move to see what she wants to shred now? I’m there. Clean up mounds of shredded dirty tissues, cardboard toilet paper rolls, paper towels? OK. Tug on the tug toy obsessively for hours? I have time for that. Watch as she tears my bedspread to shreds? Yes – she looks so cute doing it.

But remember and appointment? I would have to stop paying attention to the dog for five minutes to figure that one out.

Recently she has started chasing her tail which made me really nervous because I’m afraid that might be a sign of doggie mental illness and that runs in my family and believe me it is not pretty. That must be curtailed immediately.

So on the audition day I was so busy with the dog I didn’t check my calendar until five in the afternoon. The audition was at 11am. Whoops. I called the casting director to explain that my entire life was about peepee and poopie and that I was really sorry. Guess I didn’t make a good impression.

When I answer the phone now I say, “HELLO SHREDOMATIC INCORPORATED.” If I could figure out how to turn this into a money making enterprise that would be great. Stuffing for throw pillows? Because times are tough. When we brought the dog home I looked her in the eye and said, “ Listen dog. We have nothing. But we are willing to share our nothing with you.” To which she turned around and ran gaily through the apartment, her ears flapping in the breeze, looking for the nearest dirty tissue to shred.

It seemed highly impractical to adopt a dog at this time. But a little silly in your life is always a good thing. Take a leap of faith they say and the universe will follow.

Every time I walk her people ask; “What kind of dog is that?” Over and over. “What kind of dog is that?” “What kind of dog is that?” Ah…a black dog? She’s a rescue, so nobody knows. But everyone has an opinion. The vet: “Oh, she’s a dachapoo.” The man on the sixth floor; “Definitely a spaniel and a dachshund.” My husband, “Look at her. She a Petite Bassett Vendoodle.” Huh?

I can’t take it anymore, so I actually ordered a doggie DNA kit. Which is ironic because Cranky has never been 100% sure about which guy her father is. (So typical that an actor would come from some questionable parental situation, huh?  Are fucked up families like actor factories?) I’ve always been too spooked to do the DNA thing for myself but I will soon know the exact lineage of my dog.

Actually I’m very excited about it. I can’t wait to give her the cheek swab test and send it in. If it works well maybe it will inspire me to finally resolve my family questions myself. It all started when my brother told a story about going to a restaurant with my mother and stepfather when he was three. Three? He was six when I was born. My mother was still married to my supposed father. Hmmmmm. I asked how this could be and everyone got real quiet. Like weird quiet. I never realized until this moment how very Jerry Springer my life is. You would never know it to meet me. I think. I hope.

So maybe the dog will inspire me to do the test. Because it is a scary thing. My stepfather raised me and I loved him more than life. So if he is my real Dad I will be thrilled. Plus, then I will be only half related to the crazy relatives and wouldn’t that be wonderful? But if step dad isn’t my real dad I will cry for two days and do I really need that? But then I will have more material to draw on for future emotional substitutions.

So one step at a time. I’ll start with the doggie DNA and if that turns out good, like if she’s not a Yorkie and a Cocker which means Yappy and Snappy got together and had a puppy, or a Pit Bull and Lhasa Apso or some fucked up thing, maybe I’ll be brave and try it for myself.


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