Letters to Holly

Friday, February 15

A Mixed Day

Dad's lymph polyps are getting bigger. One is restricting his throat and the armpit growth is leaving stretch marks. They made an appointment this morning to start radiation treatment which is less intrusive than surgical removal. The radiation will be administered gradually. They'll call later today to say if they finally have a diagnosis.

I memorized the final pages of Act One yesterday. Now onto Act Two.

Picture of the Day
Someone got a haircut. She says she won't bother to straighten her hair every morning. She gave me a giant cookie, which we devoured during Lost and then fell into a sugar coma.

In the News
I don't know what angers me more: this new outburst of violence or the automatic reaction by Those Who Make Money by Talking. Here's what they'll tell their loyal listeners:

1) If another student had a gun, this wouldn't have happened.

2) The victims have been made docile by lovey-dovey parenting and cultural input to fight back. Which is a veiled way of saying "if I were there, this wouldn't have happened."

I've heard these arguments for years, and I heard them the loudest after 9/11. But what I don't hear is this: This is domestic terrorism. A suicide gunman is no different than a suicide bomber. And this is used to seemingly be the actions of Angry White Men. But, the Louisiana Tech shootings last week were the result of a female shooter. And the Virginia Tech shooter was Asian.That means this isn't just a Angry White Guy problem anymore. This isn't class warfare and people pissed off by Affirmative Action or immigration or such nonsense. Did you hear about the gay student shot at his high school and left brain dead earlier this week? Killed because he was gay.

This is a cultural symptom, and no empty-smiled political platitude is going to solve this. Don't blame the drugs (legal and illegal), don't blame the music, the games, the movies, or the books.

We have to fight the guns. Now.

Wednesday, February 13

And Happy Valentine's Day to You

I couldn't memorize any lines yesterday. My brain wasn't having any of it. I looked at one page all day long, and it just wouldn't take. And it wasn't a difficult page: My character plays devil's advocate to point out possible flaws in the murder scheme. Fifteen lines of dialogue with 12 questions. The rehearsal was canceled as the crew builds our set, and Your Sis and I enjoyed an early valentine dinner. I did wake up this morning and work over the lines of the last two pages of Act One, and I should have them in my head by the end of the day. And then it's onto Act Two.

Your Sister's gift indeed arrived yesterday, and I picked it up at Malaprops during pet duty. It's a collection of Robert McCloskey stories (Make Way for Ducklings, something about blueberries, etc.). I didn't grow up with these stories, but she showed me some of them a few years back. She seemed happy with it. This is really a holdover gift until she finds the jewelry she wants to ask for.

Moving Picture of the Day
Indy is your whip-cracking valentine.

Day 5: Back to Act One

I managed to stuff 17 pages of script into my head before tonight's rehearsal, but of course it all vanishes once I actually need it. Because this is only our second rehearsal for this act, we need our scripts for the stage movement, and because the lines are right there, the memory decides it's not needed and takes a nap.

The director pulled me aside before we get going to apologize for the late ending on Sunday. I assured him everything worked out and thanked him for the gesture. All was cool. There's some concern between the wife and the murderer involving the minx coat; both have to wear it in the play and it takes a beating when the body is dragged offstage. The director isn't worried, though.

I do manage to occasionally close the script and recite lines, and I feel good about that. I can also tell the other actors are reading at home, and the sense of progress is heartening. I'm trying to physically distinguish my character with posture and gestures and expressions. Again, I look to Jack Lemmon -- dramatic Lemmon, not comic Lemmon. I mean the guy from Towering Inferno, Airport '77, Glengarry Glen Ross, Days of Wine and Roses, etc. That Lemmon is effusive and confounded and irate and boiling and whining, and all of that just pours out of his head and shoulders and elbows. He's almost vaudeville in his manner, but he makes a perfect noir victim.

That's who I think my guy is right now, but that may change: The director has altered a small stage direction that could radically shift my character. The first act sees the con man explain a "perfect murder" to a guy losing everything in a divorce. As the script reads originally, my guy has no idea the murderer is spelling out a real plot; he thinks it's all hypothetical. At the end of the act, my guy doesn't see the murderer steal a key that will let him back into the house to kill the wife. The revision, however, has my guy see the key's removal without reaction, meaning he knows what's going to happen. That affects the inflection of his dialogue for the previous act. He's a co-conspirator, not a stooge. That also colors his subsequent lines when he pleads innocent. I gotta play with this. I don't think we can be unclear about my guy; the audience has to know where he stands, even if he pretends he's unaccountable.

The scene between the wife and husband is the best in the entire play. It's a great argument between unequals, and I think we both chomp into it before we close up for the night. My guy is an utter shit: he offers to chuck his mistress only when he learns he'll lose the house and allowance. On the other side, it's a great act for the wife actress. She takes the stage midway, destroys the spineless husband, and dies twice. All within 20 pages. There's no second act for her. She can put her feet up and gobble all the backstage snacks. Who wouldn't want this kind of role?

The next time we do this act, we're to be offbook. I'll need to recreate the set at home and memorize my stage movements over the next week. And then I'll need to start memorizing Act Two. I have roughly the same amount of time to learn roughly the same amount of pages.

I ordered Your Sister's valentine gift from a local shop, and I hope it gets here by tomorrow. If not, I gotta get a back-up gift at the literal last second.

Picture of the Day
Kanye killed at Sunday's Grammys. I remember we talked about this song in Washington the morning after I saw the video for the first time. Is there a bigger solo star right now? Is he not rock and roll?

In the News
I got home in time to watch the Obama and McCain speeches, and McCain is in deep shit if he has to debate Barack. Obama was speaking to a civic center while McCain was in a hotel conference room, and it appeared as if he had two hundred supporters to Barack's thousands. There's still hope for Clinton (Edwards' delegates would tie her with Obama), but Huckabee can only wish for McCain to implode. The Washington, DC numbers are shocking: 114, 000 Democrats voted compared to the Republicans' 5,700. CNN has outdone themselves with their primary coverage. I watch it for hours.

Tuesday, February 12


Dad called to say, again, that they still have no idea what he has. I'm starting to wonder if this isn't lymphoma. If local pathologists and a national convention of them can't ID your lymphoma, maybe you don't have lymphoma. It's possible, I suppose, that Dad's exposure to so many classic lymphoma influences has given him a super blood cancer with powers and abilities far above those of mortal lymphomas. They won't take another sample from him, much less deflate the giant armpit lump; they're afraid of jostling loose more of this mystery junk into his system.

Dad wouldn't be this far along in his diagnosis if he and Mom hadn't known some of the hospital staff. The first appointment was bumped up a few weeks. But now we're back to the normal "stress and wait" schedule. His health is the same. I guess this is what it means to live with cancer.

I'm up to page 16 in the script, and we finally go back to Act One tonight. I'll have to carry the script for the stage direction, but I hope this memorization at least helps me get more into character, as the director requested, on this, our whopping fifth rehearsal. Yes, I'm still fuming. A little voice in my head whispers "ego" and rolls it's imaginary eyes. A dozen other voices chirp in with "isn't this the theatre we were walking away from in November?" But it's a good role, and I was asked. So I will trudge on. Trudge trudge trudge.

We're still dying to know about last Saturday.

Picture of the Day
Coolest signboard job ever?