Sunday, April 10, 2011

day 1925-Ganja Soup

I’m kind of loving Fort Worth, Texas. (I’m here for the weekend singing with the Fort Worth Symphony in the decadent Bass Hall.) It’s refreshing to be in a downtown area where you can actually walk, and that has a visible population on the weekend. It is also 90 beautiful degrees which feels like a miracle after the initially magical, and ultimate shitter of winter that we have had this year in NY. During our umpteenth snow day my neighbor Amy shouts from across the street, “Bet California’s looking pretty good right now?” Uh, yeah...

Tess and I moved back to NY last August after spending 3 years in Orange County, Ca, where I had grown up. It was a welcome tonic to see my family again on a daily basis after 20 years living in New York City. I had always envied the people who lived in NY who had families there. As they casually mentioned, “I’m meeting my mom for coffee,” or “I’m dropping my kids off at my sister’s house,” I would pine for their familial proximity. 
Tess and I didn’t move back to California lightly. Since arriving in NY in 1987, it had become my home, and the cast of New Yorkian, ecccentric souls had become my new family, but when my cagey landlord hit me with a 25% rent increase, this was during the boom, I had to concede that perhaps NYC had become inhospitable to a single, and single income earning parent who worked in theater. 
My mother cheerfully offered to take us in, she was already housing my nephew, who was focusing on his masters program in college, and on weekends we were joined by his girlfriend, and now wife, so it would be a houseful of people, not unlike how my mother grew up in Long Beach, Ca during the Great Depression. She still speaks of those days as some of the happiest years of her life, when she lived with her parents, siblings, and a mixture of aunts and uncles. More is merrier, until it’s not.
My mother, Sally, was not a healthy child, suffering from crippling asthma which was treated, according to her, with a combination of marijuana, inhaled to relax the lungs, and chicken soup. Fiction became her escape. To this day, at the age of 83, the woman spends hours a day reading. Years ago, she began a system at her local library where she would put her initials on the back page of a book she had checked out and read, just in case she forgot in the future that she had already read it. (Apparently she is not the only patron using this system; I love the idea of a long list of initials in the backs of these books-readers unite!) Additionally, she is also a devoted fan of her own narrative which she parcels out whenever remotely relevant. There isn’t one person in our family who hasn’t heard every single yarn at this point, and so when we feel one coming, we take a breath, make sure we have a snack within reach, and surrender. 
One such story goes that my gambling grandfather, who was my mother’s care giver due to the fact that my Grandmother was the financial rock of the family-ever resourceful, she even worked as a PT bookie among various odd jobs, set out one day to get a chicken to make some soup for Mom who was particularly ill at the time. Evidently the ganja wasn’t cutting it, and Grandpa was feeling desperate. Seeing as he didn’t have enough money, he found some back alley gaming scheme where he could roll the dice and win enough to save his little girl. He naturally wins, buys the chicken, and Mom lives. 
All of her stories contain suspense, a villain, a hero, and eventually a happy ending, a simple, yet winning, recipe. After 80 years of reading, she began at age 3, this old broad knows the formula. OK readers, you should know by now where this is going...
I understand that they are rewriting Spiderman the Musical. Seriously, just call Sally.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 1924-My Huckleberry Friend

In Somers, NY there is a sign in front of an old Victorian that reads, “Mancini Realty.” Every time I pass the the sign, which I do fairly often, I smile. I never actually met Henry Mancini, known fondly as Hank, but I certainly feel as though I did. Everyone who knew and worked with him seemed to adore him. 
Whenever Tony, spoke of Hank he genuinely lit up. (Tess would have been ‘Hank’ if she had been a boy, a name Tony was willing to concede to, despite his first choice, Elvis.)  What’s not to love about the genius behind Moon River, Peter Gunn, Pink Panther Theme, Days of Wine and Roses, and the song that my brother used to fondly refer to as my theme song, The Baby Elephant Walk?
Tony found himself traveling with Hank on many occasions, and apparently no matter where their travels took them as they were driving through the various towns and cities Hank would ask, “I wonder what it costs to own a house here?” Tony was fascinated by Hank’s obsession. He would often ponder, “Why would someone who was so successful, and could afford to live anywhere, care?” He usually answered his own question with a shrug, “He probably wanted to know there was an affordable back up plan-just in case, or maybe he was just imagining his life if it had gone in a different direction.” So we began playing that game, imagining what life would be like without the stress of a NY or LA price tag, which would always bring us back with a pathetic laugh to, “What in the hell would we do?” 
He had a few dreams; my favorite, the B&B on the Dingle Coast in Ireland, but that would have to wait until the ‘big one.’ You know the show that puts you over the top? Tony spent so much of his life waiting...forestalling happiness for that day. Life was always better in the future. Perhaps this is why the Spiderman saga is so potent? I have been waiting for this show to open to literally put his spirit to rest. 
A couple of months after his passing, I had a session with a San Fernando based Irish healer, given as a gift by one of my dearest girlfriends, and Tony’s 2nd wife, Debrah-more on this later. The healer lit candles, burned some incense, and I slipped away into a trance. Not really sure all that happened, but when I came to she was extremely animated, 
“Anne,” for complete accuracy please insert authentic Irish brogue for part of healer, 
“Tony doesn’t want to let go,” her eyes moving like gnat radar,
“He is hanging on and refusing to leave until he knows his children are taken care of.” 
Her voice dropped, “There is a very thick cord between you and he,” she inhaled a warriors breath, and bore her eyes into mine,
“But I summoned Saint Peter...who came with his sword...” she lifted her arms high above her head and swung them slo-mo, Samurai style,
“He has severed the cord between you.” She finally exhaled. 

Oh dream maker, you heart breaker, wherever you're goin', I'm goin' your way.
Two drifters, off to see the world, there's such a lot of world to see.
We're after the same rainbow's end, comin' round the bend, my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.
It may be time for a trip back to the Valley. Like a planters wart, this cord seems to be lingering.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 1922 or What Would Captain Kirk Do?

My sisters are obsessed with Sci-Fi and fantasy, always have been.  Back in the day, their giddiness as Star Trek night neared, was palpable-palpably irksome. I so did not get it, and yet would pretend to be as excited as they.  Imagine the initial confusion, but then the tremendous relief when, as a grown up, I realized that a very good portion of the world doesn't consider Star Trek a religion. 
They dragged me along to at least 3 different Star Trek conventions; they bought me t-shirts and pins that I could wear to show my Trekian Pride. I chose a bright yellow t-shirt with an iron-on of the Starship Enterprise; I felt it would complement my Dorothy Hamil hair cut,  and that the grandness of the Enterprise might distract from my 10 year old flabby stomach, which spilled over my fake Ditto jeans. Funny thing is, I actually did feel pretty cool in that shirt, pretty powerful.
When I mentioned to my older sister the other day that my daughter was totally in her tweendom,with the matching behaviors, she suggested that Tess simply needed to read more Sci-Fi. I countered that she had just devoured The Hunger Games series and was in the midst of a walk down Harry Potter lane, revisiting all of the movies, last night’s viewing: The Goblet of Fire. As I watched I realized that my sister was right, I sat there thinking, “That poor Harry just can’t catch a break.” Somehow Harry’s ongoing and disturbing challenges really made me feel better.
To this day my older sister doesn't confront one of life's challenges without citing how Captain Kirk or Spock or Bones would have handled it, albeit tongue in cheek, which is why I can still like her. (Full disclosure, I actually like her a lot.) I think she is a true hero. 
The new producers of Spiderman the musical named their company Heroic Productions. I wonder if they have considered, "What would Captain Kirk do?" 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 1921

So why start today? Day 1921?

Maybe it's because this morning as I was making lunch for my 11 year old daughter, Tess, I understood how certain people could become homeless. You just get worn down to a point where you don't feel like you have anything left, you're frickin tired, and feel like you can't catch a break.

The man who was my husband, Tony Adams, felt like that the last number of years of his life, tired, weary, beat up. He had a stroke, a semi-famous stroke as it turns out, as he died in the apartment of Edge, you know the guy from U2, moments before Edge was to sign his contract for Spiderman the Musical-bet Edge wishes he could take that whole day back. Tony was the producer of Spiderman at the time. I think Tony just imploded; here he was sitting in Edge's apartment, and even though Tony had enjoyed a celebrity filled life in Hollywood, this guy, along with his fellow band members, was simply heroic to Tony, much of it having to do with their shared Irishness.  The word stress didn't begin to describe the state of Tony at the time, it was so much more complicated, complex, and ultimately heartbreaking.

Tony had worked hard in Hollywood producing many films as the partner of Blake Edwards. He came to NY to bring Victor/Victoria to the stage as a Broadway musical. When my agent phoned me about an audition to stand by for Julie Andrews, I was intrigued. I ended up getting the job, hence met Tony, and was tossed into a whirlwind of a life with him that I would live for the next 11 years-until he died. On that day, Oct 22, 2005, cliched as it sounds, time literally stood still, and the whirlwind stopped.

This blog will serve as a place where I intend to both document and unravel this story so I can truly move on with my life. Due to all the media attention surrounding Spiderman-the Musical, Tony's spirit is still quite prominent, and that is both pleasant and annoying. Ultimately, as much as I think I have moved forward,  the death of a spouse in which you are left holding all the cards for your family...aint no day at the fair!