fluorescent sun

The a/c exhales cold air, incessantly,

above the door:

I breathe relief, and welcome the Machine.

LCD screens, wires and towers—

papers, files and phones: tools

to make (“more”) money, out of thin air.

The summer sun is not the power source – the soft electric

hum is the Voice. It

comes from, somewhere, deep inside.

Temperatures rise outside, unbearable earth.

Heat presses against

the windows and the exit door. Freon fills my lungs.

My skin crawls

and chills my fingernails slowly: Mortuary sanctuary.

Coffee, coffee, coffee…to stay awake.

“Sell, sell, sell” the old man echoes.

Brightness fills every inch of glass to kill.

We work together, like ice:

In cubes, we sit still

and silently call, like atomic clocks. Our bodies frozen

under this electric light.

I’m blind in this fluorescence: a milky maze mind.

Escape.

My sunglasses only arouse suspicion. No safe

shadow to hide my soul. Plastic black phones are weapons or bones;

attached below where no one can see.

I try calling out, to reach

someone…

Alive

…on the outside. No Answer.

Death says, ‘work to live.’ A hopeless smile

caresses His face.

When it’s time, I leave everyone behind,

turning off the light.

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Journal: NYC July 13, 2008 – Day 3

July 13th

Sunday

 9:27a

Catching the train! “Hurry-up and wait”—welcome to NYC. The train, into the city, comes, within seconds, as I run up and down the stairs, in my flip-flops, crossing the tracks. I catch my breath on the platform. The whistle blows. I enter as the doors open.

Last night, leaving Molly Wee’s, was a bit humorous. I grasped the directions, from the barmaid Laura Ann, to go down 34th to Park Ave to find Grand Central Station. After finishing my fourth pint, I left and entered the teeming streets in the full sun.

I snaked my way down the sidewalk between the scaffolding and strangers. What dawned on me was NYC is a ‘melting-pot’ of every: race, sex, creed, color, attitude, defect, walk, voice, smell in one place. I’ve heard about a ‘melting-pot,’ but until you walk, with and next to living people, it’s unfathomable.

Everyone I saw was an example of every type of stereotype. There was no one the same. What life! A concrete jungle of wild strange people swarming on 34th & Park Ave.  – all the way down 34th, from Madison to Grand Central Station.

When I stepped on the corner of 34th & 5th Ave., I asked for directions, and realized I needed to go to 42nd St. Then I knew the beers filled my bladder, but it had leaked-out of my memory. So, with my bladder ready to explode and walking up 5th Ave, I had to act.  I walked by an open-door Catholic Church, The Church of Our Savior. I stepped inside, took off my hat & glasses, opened the tall wooden door.

What I found was a holy relic. It was cool, dark and the priest was at stage right proclaiming his sermon. I quickly tried to spot an exit for a bathroom. I began to scout. I bumped into one of the office workers: a small, black, devout woman in a red blouse and glasses, to find the men’s room. We went around the congregation and through a side door. Once inside, she immediately proclaimed, “What’s dis?!” On the door was a temporary sign ‘back in a few minutes.’ The bathroom was through this locked door! Disgusted, we turned around. The door opened and a bulky black security guard stood out. She gave him a few choice words. He quickly directed me to, “down the hall and to your left.”

I arrived to my pew and began to listen…dry and garbled; something with being intoxicated. The topics were of will power, us and logic. What a combination of philosophy, theology and drunkenness in one place under God.

Well, I was bored lasting through Mass, no matter how stirring or dead-pan; but, this time, I had to exit my pew. Well, the forces-at-be were not going to let me go so quickly.

Immediately, I was asked to help take collections. Mind you, I’ve attended many Masses and I’ve not been subject to participate. Now, out of randomness, or an act-of-God, I was to go up the aisle, slightly buzzed in my flip-flops, for two offerings. Two?! I stepped out of my pew, as solemn and sober as I could; my mental state being one and my physical being another.

After finishing my second round of collecting green bills and checks, I sat down and made my Eucharist. I felt yesterday’s experience @ HB was ‘meant-to-be.’ Lastly, since I was sitting in the last pew, I held the big wooden door for Father George to exit and greet. I extended my hand, hoping he wouldn’t smell by breath, to thank him for the Mass. He grabbed my hand with vigor.  He looked me square, into my eyes, and said, “Have I seen you before?” “ Yes,” I replied, “I was just at the alter.” He grinned, and asked me to return. A nice ending to a misadventure.

Forty minutes later, I proceeded down 5th Ave., to Grand Central Station.  Inside, I got my round trip ticket. I went upstairs for a drink. I had fifteen minutes with my Bombay blue gin & tonic. Happiness.

3:31p

With that story passed, I can now describe my morning up to this point. (Writing a journal is fun, but keeping up with the tenses of past & present is taxing.)

The train was smooth. I arrived in GCS and began to scout for a city map. Where was I?  Where do I want to go? What line, or lines, on the subway do I take? These are very basic questions if you live in the city and know the lines; but, I‘m learning like some kind of thirty-nine year old babe-in-the-woods.

I jumped on a line, and immediately realized I was going downtown, or was it uptown? All I knew was the streets were going up in numbers and I wanted them lower.  I got off, and connected to the E (blue)line to the Village. I arrived ‘uptown’ at 10:30am.

I stepped up the stairs at HB. I was forty minutes early.  I waited at the window-seat on the second floor. Carolyn stopped, and we talked about the class. She teaches scene study and character classes. I told her my travels from Maine, and that I planned on moving down in October. She was impressed.

The second day of “Bath” was exhausting. I’ve been able to find an inner voice and began to read the text. After about an hour or more of exercises, we finally got to reading. Each person received one line, hand-selected, and to began working vowels & consonants until they came out naturally… A line from Cryano! My favorite.

3:35p

A late lunch at the Bus Stop Café. My experience in NYC, the Village, will be right where it started. I’m sitting outside admiring the scenery. I know I’ll be back in two weeks for another class. This weekend has been quite eventful. Maybe it’s the novelty; maybe it’s my desire to be here.

I’m ordering another sandwich-to-go. The bus trip will be long and dry. This’ll be my eatable token, of the Village, for my ride back.

9:38p

Sitting on a bus bench at South Station Boston. A whirlwind of a trip! My eyes are heavy. I’ve enough energy to get my last thoughts down before they vanish.

One of the last moments of NY was when I got on the E train to Port Authority on 42nd St. I was told it was the A train, but realized, after missing one train, that only the E was running. The time was 4:20. I couldn’t afford to re-think any other options, but to get to my bus on time. I jumped on the next E, prayed, and believed it would take me on the same line, too. It did. Relief.

4:30. I walked the long corridor from the subway to the bus terminal.  My last destination. Not bad, I thought.  I was approached by a friendly black man asking if I needed help to find my terminal. I knew he wasn’t an official employee, but a hand-out looking for a hand-out. He was courteous, as a guide. He delivered the way and asked for a donation. I gave him five bucks. He turned around and walked back, to his corner, for another ‘paid’ instruction.

I only waited five minutes for the Boston line. I boarded the bus back to Portland. This time, I was ironically struck: not who I sat next to but who sat next to me: a young Indian man and a fair woman incessantly talking.

Here were two people that didn’t understand the meaning of breathing, nor restraint. (Maybe it’s better they’re in the audience because ‘acting’ would be too much for their frontal lobes.) I found out, after hearing their conversation for two hours, they’re Harvard grads. The two of them were on the isle seats leaning over chit-chatting, while another passenger and I were trapped. Perfect torture! And, my legs were aching, again. No room.

On our pit-stop in Connecticut, I approached the lady and the Indian man and asked if we could switch seats. No problem. Good. They can talk together and I can relax, or so I thought.

I met a new travel friend, Corey, an English teacher. She’s from Boston visiting one of her girlfriends in the Hamptons. She mentioned her lack of interest being in the Compliance dept. at Fidelity for the last five years before her career switch. How interesting to sit next to a stranger that had some common interests, too, when I used to work in finance. Well, we talked and talked until an older man, in the front row of the bus, stood-up and walked to my seat. He announced, in a loud voice, he was tired of hearing me talk about my acting career, and if I could lower my voice! What? Me? I was incensed. I shook it off, and did lower my volume. How ironic! We’ve only been chatting for twenty minutes in a normal hushed tone, not the two people still talking without pause, and I’m the one heckled on the bus! That moment capped the weekend.

Ps. About three minutes later a young female passenger came over to me, on her way to the bathroom, and told me the old man had some ‘issues.’ Why is it that the mentally unstable ones need to express their criticism to actors?

10:10p

On the bus back to Portland. It’s not Greyhound. The seats are more comfortable. As I step up, I’m questioned by the bus driver. My ticket isn’t valid. I tell her I bought my ticket at the Portland bus terminal. She snaps, “Next time, buy your ticket at our station.” Now, I understand what the Greyhound dispatch lady meant, when she told me my ticket was valid, even switching carriers, no matter what they try to tell you.  What a racket. Shut-up and get me home.

Next time, I’ll use the Fung Wah bus out of Boston to NYC for twenty-bucks. Another adventure.

Journal: NYC Saturday July 12, 2008 – Day 2

July 12

Saturday

5:20a

NYC. Got on the A train heading uptown to the Village. I’d already, in my waking hour, gotten ‘lost in NY.’ I took some advice from some of the night denizen-types to go downtown instead of uptown. As they say, you need to get lost first to find NYC – initiation. Now, my stop is @ 14th St. and 8th Ave.

5:48a

Sittin’ in an open, tall, yellow window-seat at the Bus Stop Café on 8th Ave & Hudson. I’m the first patron. And, with my steaming coffee, the sunrise lights the cool roof tops – a balance: the flowers know the sun is coming below down on Abingdon market. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

7:10a

Finished breakfast: eggs benedict with salmon, home fries laced with onion & green peppers, sliced fresh strawberries in a sundae dish, water and bottomless coffee by Anna, my Hispanic waitress. Delicious!

The soft music plays and the sun begins to warm the teeming streets: orange taxis, chained bicycles to street signs, lethargic hissing-n-whining buses, like white painted elephants with wheels, single early-risers parading along the winding sidewalks with leashed dogs, or more. The farmer’s market stands, across the street, by size and color, from wooden baskets of vegetables to tested tables surrounding the park, for their audience, on the corner of 8th and Hudson.

How picturesque. From where I sit, a painted self-portrait of the Café. To my left, I view, hear & smell my first NYC Saturday morning in the summer.

I can’t help noticing the petunias protecting me, in their window box, from the harsh city streets; their two-tone garden, of dark and light violets, resonate a softness and easiness that makes dimples into smiles.

7:31a

The sun is just about to break, like an egg, from the tops of buildings holding back the horizon.  The Café comes to life; each table with its own appetite and agenda.  Ah! I see the first rays of sun: stripes of light turn the red brick, across Bethune St., from shadows to living color. It won’t be long before I’ll be wearing shades.

If first impressions make a lasting memory, then I’m molded into New York with warm benevolence. I’ll take it.  Like any delicious breakfast, the rest of the day will follow. I feel accepted.

10:51a

HB Studio Office. A possible set-back after introducing myself and requesting to sign-up for the Shakespeare voice – Bath classes. I hear, “ the class is full;” not only at capacity, but over-booked with 22! (How can my favorite number be the bane of my efforts?) At first, I’m told, “ too bad, sorry.” I stand firm. I explain I called earlier to register! On the phone, in Maine, I was told to, ” just come down.”  I’m at deaf ears.

I sit down.  Katrina, an older actress/teacher, takes the time to fully explain the courses @ HB and how to fully explore the vast curriculums. No matter, my energy to attend this class is at a boiling-point. Like a fresh breeze, Jim Boerlin, acting teacher, walks in. I say hello. Also, another staff member goes down and preps one of the directors for the class, as an edge for me as a stand-in. If this is meant-to-be, I’d better fight. Not only do I feel this travel down to NYC might be in vain; but, if there’s a one-in-a-million chance I am taking it. I love this suspense!

Now, I’m sitting in the staff kitchen waiting until 11:30 to determine my fate. Like the weather, you never know until it happens. Most importantly, everyone turned a negative situation to a stronger positive one; I feel my odds are increasing by the minute. We’ll see…

4p

Lunch was delicious @ Molly Wee’s Irish bar on 8th in Chelsea. It’s next to the Garden. I strolled from HB down 8th Ave. until my stomach and my attitude needed a new adjustment. I dropped in and sat-up to the mahogany bar and cooled down.

Oh! The mystery was solved @ HB. Yes, I did get into the class I came down for!  (Plus, made a nice connection with the teachers.) The voice class was monumental. I was able to focus on breathing and speaking from my center (diaphragm) and really feel the vowels & consonants as an actor.

We first practiced loosening-up ourselves; and then, we delved into the unknown. (What a fun and intrepid place beyond being normal.) The light turned-on for me when Ann, one of my teachers, held my head and centered me on the floor concentrating on breathing in letting-go.  From then on, Ann centered my breathing and vocal intonations.

The second part of the class was an exercise of announcing and pronouncing vowels & consonants with a haiku. Finding the origins of the sounds in the words, and the breathing “meanings” gave me purpose to reading classic literature. (This will be good timing practicing w/Bill with the Tom monologues of Tennessee Williams.) By the end of the three hours, I realized the importance of strong stomach muscles, and to practice utilizing my diaphragm. What a natural tool! Now, at my disposal I’m grateful to begin re-learning what God gave me. I look forward to tomorrow’s class.

I’m getting good vibes in NYC.

Journal: NYC Friday July 11, 2008

July 11, 2008

Friday

9:30p

Left Portland. Heading south on 295 to Boston. It seems the driver has his young teenage daughter riding with him to their own private destination. I’m in the second row on the right taking-up two seats. Across the isle, is a middle-aged married woman, mumbling and fingering her bus ticket papers, with her reading glasses propped-up on her head to read again on this shaky bus.

I board the Greyhound bus. I don’t make eye-contact with the other strangers picking their seat by the unspoken lot of first-come-first-possess. My hope is, by closing my eyes and looking asleep, I wouldn’t get sat next to. The bus starts to rumble. I’m victorious, at least at this leg of the trip.

The bus is quiet. Only the light above me, and two others, down the dark cabin, are signs of being awake. Since I don’t notice a special driving light above the driver, other than his wheezing-cough or two, I’ll assume he’s nocturnal and he can master his way safely to our next stop.

11:09p

South Station Boston. Last night and today’s work-out, pushing the lime spreader all over Falmouth, Maine, is starting to give my legs a growing uneasiness. As much as I wanted  to sleep, I was only able to sink into a half hour on the bus. Agony at best in seats which don’t allow leg room, nor a pillow.

I sit here inside the station watching the myriad of shifting-people walking across me – to my left, to my right -stepping at their own beat and rhythm. Tonight there is no bias. Each person has their own identity: pace, hair color, waistline, height, shoe size, shirt design, pant lengths, pitch in voice, hair style, travel bags, etc.  I’m noticing all of the faces. How a quick glance at a stranger’s features summarize their existence.

What’s my curious attraction to identify the human race? What’re the nuances from each creature in order to form a character? I can only believe in being a sponge and squeeze out a new type of blood when called upon to act and write.

My Hole for You

I’m diggin’ my hole.

I can hear Your voice, sing.

My arms ache, and my shovel shakes.

I can’t see nothin’ ‘cept my shadow.

The Sun shines down on my head, and I can feel my back.

Oh Lord, when will I be there?

I’m breathin’ my own air,

and can’t get out of my way.

My child prays, and my other plays.

Where You take me only my hole knows.

Sweat & soil sit in my feet.

I gotta keep goin’ on.

I’m searchin’ for my Hope, don’t ya know.

Money ain’t my savior, anymore.

Please forgive me, I’m diggin’ my hole for You.

Blood, Love & the Man curse me, across.

My hands grip like my stained face.

‘Forget ’em,’ I say. ‘Ain’t nothin, but a weight.’

Like rain, Your honey-voice cools–,

and I dig–harder and deeper.

There ain’t nothin’ I’d rather do, ‘cept die.

the bedrock

awake in a dream…we found something, like a smooth sea-stone, on the shore. there was more to the shape and wetness between our fingers when we looked into each other’s eyes knowing we found “it”. a spring of joy flooded our hearts, and i was aroused, and kissed you as the waves spilled on the sand around our feet. when we breathed, holding the stone, i noticed that neither of us knew what the shape meant, but we could feel mounting swells inside our bodies. the darkness of the rock became no more than the color of the deep sea. you held my hand closer until we became the same. you looked out beyond. your quiet eyes of the rolling ocean and reflecting sun told me all.

waves tumbled and caressed as if i was falling underwater; then, you saved me with your kiss. you came out of the wave with your legs and arms taking me into a wash of passion. my mind raced to find the shore — some kind of grounding. but, your strength around me, beside me and on me gave me solace. love with you. your hair brushed my lips and chest and i was forever underwater with your desires — breathing your breath. alive…
your curves and pearl-skin ached my tongue to taste your sea-salt. but there was more…i couldn’t touch with my fingertips and hot mouth…your soul inside your skin. i felt distant like the man i am to your womanhood. i listened to the moon-tide. a new force pulled me closer anyway. i had no choice. your flares burned me to enter and i kept digging to touch your inner realm of life, mystery and the horizon. we rolled penetrating the invisible time to a new sun. a place we knew: a place where only the wild death of living gave us free pleasure.
dreams upon colors and colors upon desires, we rolled and never felt tired. your love came without thinking. my love held yours like the stone. our breathing spilled-out: our currents turning as one stream. our rock fell. it burned under our hearts. the bedrock.

The Vineyard Harvest

Jonathan Edwards WineryThe morning called me up at six am. This was a day to harvest. I made plans to be at the vineyard in Stonington, Connecticut, to work for free, this Friday morning. The weather was moderate and cool. My adrenaline coursed my veins without hesitation, as I ate breakfast, let the dogs out and drove to Jonathan Edwards Winery.

All of my life, I’ve lived with wine. As a kid, dad showed me how to make home-made wine in the kitchen: Welch’s grape juice, a packet of yeast, a washed-out reusable plastic bottle and a stopper. (The notion that you can teach your kids to understand the properties and responsibilities of wine in the home has proved invaluable.) Later in my college-days, I remember driving in my 1971 two-door Buick LeSabre, up and down the rolling summer hills of the Finger Lakes ‘lake country,’ in upstate New York, capturing the sweet air passing through the 145 plus vineyards dreaming of wine. Back in 1994, when I was in Los Angeles, I landed my first job with Gallo Wine Distributors, managing twenty-one large grocery stores in the heart of Hollywood. And years later, after my divorce in Rhode Island, I worked at Greenvale Vineyards, as a cutter, tasting-server and tour guide, living, again, with wine.

In all of my experiences, my sense of wonder has increased, to do more, within the spirit-culture of wine making. I believe in holistic-healings, the Dionysian mysticism, the religious symbolism and my own intuitive truths of family, as attractions. Maybe it’s the evolution of my soul working and living a natural existence. My solaces of wine, theater and chocolate are combinations for a new vitality. My heart relishes this craving, as a healthy addiction to my soul: the human existence of interacting passions, as the very essences of life.

The winding drive up to the winery built an impending excitement. I was waved-in by Chris, the vineyard foreman, to park and sign-in. His friendly smile and genuine attitude was welcoming like some unspoken secret – something organically beautiful – hiding in the vineyard. And, being there, I was going to find out.

Everyone gathered, until we had our motley harvest-crew: young, old, retired, out-of-work, seasoned and virgin pickers (like me), alike. But, we all accepted each other, equally, because we all wanted to share the same experience together: harvesting the same grapes in the same vineyard for the same accomplished feeling. This was my first awakening.

Chris drove us to the back-lot to begin on the Chardonnay section. As we gathered, he gave us the basic instructions, and handed out cutters to begin. As simple as it was to cut the bunches, there were rules about how to harvest. First, the snips are very sharp and one can cut a finger, or two. Second, handle the grapes with firm care, and place gently in the buckets. Third, move the colored buckets inside the vines so they’re not kicked by the tractor. Fourth, have fun!

The seasoned workers brought their stools, buckets and even chairs to place in front of their ‘pole-to-pole’ or ‘buck-to-bucket’ work spaces. And the conversations began as quickly as the shears began click-clack cutting. These strangers, friends, and older acquaintances relaxed and worked, while discussing their lives between rows of grapes. The cool grey morning settled everyone into an open rhythm. Our goal was to produce 12.5 tons of Chardonnay by days-end (and, wouldn’t ya know it, we came very close!). This was my second awakening: human interaction and neighborly dialogue is vital to produce a good days’ work.

Immediately, I stopped at a bucket and listened, while I clipped bunches of grapes. My ears amazed my senses at how important and fulfilling everyone was working. Everyone’s individual conversation become one human voice – a cacophony of dialogues. The natural timing of the snipping-beat produced a melody with everyone’s voices. I was swept-up, into this collection, sharing with my fellow harvesters, and made new friends. As we cut and finished a section, we would say ‘goodbye’ and move to the head-of-the-line, and restart a conversation with another. All day we rotated and kept many different conversations going on as we came back to one another shifting and cutting. Because there was no money, only wine as our payment or reward, there was no politics or rivalry – quite the opposite. In fact, volunteering produced more ‘hard work’ by everyone helping each other; this natural camaraderie went to a new high when each of us rotated and kept an eye-out for unseen bunches of grapes. A working ‘golden rule’ motto, emerged: “If I had a vineyard, I’d hope people would have the same care.”

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Then I was struck. I wasn’t hurt, but blinded by the cut on my left index finger. A sense of immediate shock blunted my pain. On my row, I looked up and noticed the majestic morning beauty. Each of the rows were draped in white, like a ritual. These were virgin grapes, naturally grown for the first time this year, and ready to be plucked to make wine. The lush green vines, with their wide leaves, tried to hide it’s savoring fruit. The white netting laced on-top and the blue azure reaching into the heavens produced a romanticism only in novels, poetry and movies: a marriage between Man and Nature. I was part of a human ritual to celebrate life, family and love. A strong softness swept me with the passing breeze. I could feel this inherit force cut me, as I had cut each grape bunch. I, too, was bleeding. I felt the blood tingle, from my finger, as I watched it drip, and deposit into the ground, as if I was now part of an ancient cycle of existence. In every culture, through the ages, wine has been the life-blood. No matter the religion, and before the Romans and Greeks, wine has been the source of our civilization.

In my transcendent moment, I could breathe. I looked at my sugared-hands and bleeding finger. I was now in-tune with the vines. My blood mixed with the grapes’. I took two grapes and rubbed them on my cut. No sting. The natural sugars coagulated with my blood and closed my wound. Instinctively, I did this without thinking. I silently rejoiced. In my solitary moment, I was in a timeless connection. Standing on this farm, in the middle of Connecticut, in North America, I journeyed to the primal root of my heart.

Everyone harvesting got to know each other well. Our friendliness took to laughter. Each of us became close, like brothers and sisters. We created a new family within the Jonathan Edwards’ family winery. At three-thirty, our day came to an end with the last row of Chardonnay. We accomplished a good day’s work together. We were exhausted and filled-up with ear-to-ear smiles. Our reward was near: three bottles of wine (of our choice), and either a cooler of beer, or glasses of wine!

Within these moments, after our labor together in the vineyard, under the September sun, between the rows of Chardonnay grapes, gave us, each, a moment to reflect: Grace. And, everyone, volunteers and employees, came out and expressed their wholesome thanks. The harvest work wasn’t over, but our efforts for the day were much appreciated, as we appreciated the experience of being together – working together for a common good – Vino!

In these days of fever-pitched politics, low-wage economics and feast-or-famine successes, this day was a ‘cut’ above. Even with all of the made-made technologies in cellphones, internet and computers to quicken our memories, we can never replace the natural rhythm of the human touch. My awakenings proved that our human sensitivities are not lost, but are within a hope of an untamed essence. It’s our primal need to communicate and create together; we are living passions being played out to live together. Our harmony is only enjoyed by embracing the virtues of our hearts with wine, for example. Living together is working together for a common soulful good. Technology and business may aid us in our efforts to make life easier, but the true reward is our will to work hard toward mutual companionship: to live and care with others, as friends and family.

In one day, we became one union – heart-to-heart and grape-to-grape – to make wine. This vineyard harvest was an unforgettable joy. In every glass of wine, for the rest of my days, I will always treasure this memory. ~Cheers!