A Spanish Play

On Thursday night we went to see a new play by Yasmina Reza called A Spanish Play. Reza is a French playwright of some renown. In college I read her most famous play 'Art'. It's a play about three friends and how one of them purchasing a piece of art changes and affects their friendship. The piece of art is a huge canvas painted white and it wasn't cheap. It was a funny play and I remember it making me think about the value of art and also the value of friendship and how friends influence each other and help each other develop as people.

I read the play six years ago out loud to Brian in the car as he drove us to his grandparents’ house. It was my first time meeting them. I don't think of myself as a clumsy person usually, but before two hours had passed, I upset a whole box of Russell Stover’s assorted dark chocolates onto the pristine white carpet. The box had just been opened; one piece had been eaten. So I scooped all of the chocolates back into the box — no reason to waste all of those delicious goodies and, as I mentioned, the carpet was very clean. I later learned that chocolates that fall on the floor are to be thrown away in this family.

Later than night, Brian's grandma asked me if I liked black licorice. I said, "No. Not really. I am growing to like my mother’s anise cookies, though." She told me she had just the thing for me. She took me into the kitchen and poured me a shot of Zambuca (a licorice flavored liqueur) and then set it on fire. Hot licorice flavored alcohol. It was terrible. Brian's brother finished the drink for me after my first few sips.

A Spanish Play is about actors rehearsing a Spanish play in which some of them play actors — one of those actors is rehearsing a Bulgarian play. So there are three layers (at least) going on. While there's a lot of comedy, especially from Denis O'Hare, mostly it’s sad. The characters, in each layer, are sad and lonely. Their relationships are falling apart. They are losing their grips on who they are. Do actors exist apart from the roles they play? Is it better if they don’t? Is there an end to anything? To art? To relationships? To pain and loneliness? To existence?

I really liked it. All the actors were amazing. I’ll remember the sadness though, I think, more than anything else. The actor rehearsing the Bulgarian play has a line about liking happy, “jolly” plays, but the sad things stick with you longer. I think that’s right. We’re all so afraid of sadness and loneliness (or so familiar with it) that seeing it on the stage or on the screen resonates louder and reverberates longer in our hearts.

The play was directed by John Turturro. It was a square theater with about five rows of seating on three sides. I think that’s called a three-quarters stage. We were in the second-to-last row in the center section (excellent seats that we got for free because Brian’s job is awesome). We went in as soon as the house opened — about fifteen minutes before the show started. We sat and watched the seats fill up. About five minutes out, three men came and sat down in the seats right behind us. Brian says to me quietly, “That’s John Turturro. He’s sitting right behind us.” And sure enough he was. We were able to eavesdrop as he talked to the other two men about what had been happening in rehearsals and the differences between doing a new play and an old play. During the play, Brian was treated to and distracted by some of his commentary. He was sitting directly behind Brian. I couldn’t hear much after the play started. I did hear him curse once or twice in reaction to some technical difficulties. But mostly it was just cool to sit in front of a famous actor who also happened to direct the play.

This is a picture that Brian took of John T. on the set of A Spanish Play.


Dog Tricks

We have had our dog, Mo, for a year and a half. We love her. She's a great dog, and she's very smart. Or at least she is very easy to train. In the first six months we had her, I taught her all kinds of tricks. I bought a trick book and spent time training her almost every day.

Then I stopped. I got busy or lazy or overly proud of my past training accomplishments. But this year, as you might have read below, I have a goal of teaching her at least five new tricks. I wanted to document the tricks she already knows (so you can see how brilliant she is), and list the tricks that I want to teach her this year so that I don't forget to do them.

Here is Mo's repertoire:







Mo can also jump over things — a broom handle most often, and she stays very well. She also can "go get" a few specific toys. So as you can tell, she's brilliant.

In 2007, I will teach her at least five new tricks.
Here are some ideas:

1. balance a treat on the end of her nose, then flip it into her mouth
2. go get her leash before walks
3. crawl
4. go get her food dish
5. take something to Brian
6. go upstairs
7. go lay down in a specific place

We've already started the first one. She's doing really well. I'll post a picture once we have it perfected along with pictures of the other tricks as she learns them.


New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve I was in Montara, California, 35 minutes south of San Francisco on Highway 1. My family — my mom and stepdad; my sister Sarah and her husband Nathan; my sister Heather and her long-time boyfriend Rob; and me and my husband Brian — gathered together at a lighthouse hostel for five days of post-Christmas holiday time.

The day started with a trip to Muir Woods — the redwood forest just north of San Francisco most famous for its cameo in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. These are the woods where Kim Novak shows Jimmy Stewart her birth and death on the rings of a cross-section of redwood tree, speaking in a dreamy, possessed-by-Carlotta-Valdes voice.

The eight of us hiked a three- or four-mile trail through the woods, up a mountain, and back into the valley next to a creek where salmon migrate. We were surrounded by thousand year-old trees, any one of which could have housed gnomes or fairies if this were another world. Some of these might have been homes to Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Muir Woods is where George Lucas filmed the Endor scenes.

The greens, the reds, the browns, the age and majesty of these giants left me speechless. It looked like a fairy tale. It was the kind of place that makes you wish you were a little kid or a princess or a little girl pretending to be a princess. It's the kind of place that makes you want to move there and be nearby and walk here often and always and with your children who haven't been born yet or even thought about seriously but if they did exist, or when they do, they need to see this place and this beauty, and so do you. It was the kind of day that makes you wonder about people who don't like to hike or don't like "the outdoors." Is it possible that those people really exist? And if they came here and saw these trees and breathed this air, — the fresh, fragrant, crisp, clean air — would they feel the same?

I enjoy hiking or group-walking like we did that day because it's beautiful and exciting and also because it offers a chance for personal and varied conversation. As we walked, our large group would split into smaller groups and some would lag behind a little and some would pull a little ahead always to reconvene, rearrange, and redisperse. This happened every quarter-mile or so. I loved this because it gave me a chance to have in-depth conversations with my sisters, one at a time and together, and with my mother and with everyone in our party in every permutation without another person in the hearing distance but with everyone in sight. Walking together, in my experience, lends itself to getting past small talk and into meaningful conversations. From reminiscing about old memories to dreams for the future to regrets and hardships, I talked about everything as I walked in the woods that day.

As night fell and midnight approached, we found ourselves back at the lighthouse ready to implement our mildly illicit plan. Ever since we started talking about this trip a year ago, we had talked about ringing in the New Year with a bonfire on the beach. But once we arrived at the hostel, we noticed some prominently rules: (1) You can't be on the beach after dark. (2) You can't have an open fire anywhere on the grounds. (3) You can't have alcohol at any hostel in the United States.

Sarah had some second thoughts. She has some trouble with willfully breaking rules. Luckily the rest of us don't. At 11:20 we gathered our six bottles of champagne and our firewood and walked down to the beach. The fire was ablaze in minutes and the bar was officially opened. We counted down to midnight, toasted, kissed, and sang Auld Lang Syne in harmony. We each shared our best memory of 2006 and some resolutions, if we had them, for 2007. Then we played a moonlit and champagne-lit game of charades before heading to bed.

I have a friend who says that New Year's Day should set the tone for the whole year. She usually goes swimming at Coney Island on New Year's Day when the average temperature in New York City is below freezing. I think the idea is that she wants to spend the rest of the year being brave and adventurous and a little death-defying; not that she wants to spend the whole year in her bathing suit with Russian members of the Polar Bear Club.

I spent New Year's Day from 7 a.m. until after midnight in airports and on airplanes. Needless to say that is not how I want to spend my year. But if I could use my New Year's Eve as my marker for the year to come, it will be a wonderful year full of natural splendor, deep and affectionate conversation, daring and jovial celebrations, and time with loved ones. I could deal with that kind of a year.


Happy Birthday To Me

Me being stabbed through the heart by a pirate

Last Monday was my Birthday — January 8th. I am twenty-seven. David Bowie, who shares my birthday, turned 60. And Elvis also got a year older, but since he's probably dead, we don't need to keep track of his age.

Husband's birthday was also last week on Wednesday the 10th. It's kind of a nice set up because it easily becomes a whole week of birthday celebration, a whole week of going out to dinner with friends, seeing movies, going shopping, getting presents, and drinking champagne. Last week we saw Notes on a Scandal and six short films by a self-taught animator named Brent Green. I bought myself two new knitting books and some new clothes. We had dinner out a few times and drank Sofia Coppola champagne.

My birthday comes at a good time of year for another reason. It is exactly one week after New Year's Day. I like the idea of New Year's resolutions a lot and having the new calendar year fall so closely to a new year of life makes New Year's resolutions a little less arbitrary. It feels that way anyway. I can say, "These resolutions are not only things that I would like to improve or change about myself in 2007 but also things that I would like to change and improve for my twenty-eighth year of life.

Last year I made two big resolutions. I became a vegetarian and I decided not to buy any clothes. Small exceptions were made at the beginning of the year for Thanksgiving dinner, socks and underwear, and a few other things. I did a good job keeping these resolutions, but they were really hard — the not buying clothes more than the not eating meat. This year I have a few different ideas, and inspired by Best Friend, I'll list a few of my plans for 2007 betterment.

1. Always have a bottle of wine in the house (which naturally leads to drinking more wine, and although drinking more wine is not a resolution, I'm not against it.)

2. Learn to sew. I know the basics but I'd like to be better and do it more often. I've already taken strides toward this one. I bought a fun intruction book and have finished three projects already this year. I've also already broken a needle on my sewing machine.

3. Go to Europe with Brian. This September will be our fifth wedding anniversary. We think a big trip could be a fitting way to celebrate.

4. Write more often. I'd like to blog once a week and finish my Choose Your Own Adventure book. I'd like to have something published somewhere.

5. I'd like to teach my dog to do at least five new tricks this year. Maybe I can document them for you here on the blog.

6. I'd like to make a movie with Brian and our amazing new video camera or maybe a couple movies.

There are a few others of a more personal nature that I have no desire to share in such a public venue. I'll monitor my own success on those goals.

I hope that 2007 is treating you well so far. Please feel free to share your resolutions if you made any this year. And if you have any tips on how to stop popping your knuckles, please share those too.