Endless Longing

Endless Longing

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“I was meant for something, surely. No creature is placed on this earth for nothing. Who am I, where do I belong? I know I have a soul because it’s crying out to me now. It’s reaching for something, someone, I don't know what, but I must find something to hold, to love, to give to, and be nourished by. My heart is filled with nameless longings. I long for… I long for…”

I scripted those thoughts for my desperate seventeen-year-old protagonist Elisa Roundtree in Not From the Stars, the first of my 4-book series, His Majesty's Theatre. Elisa was betrothed at birth to Sir John Garingham, a corrupt industrialist who is also a serial rapist. It is now 1903. He has always supported her impoverished family. She owes him. Soon turning eighteen, she has no dowry and no chance of finding a different husband. Although Sir John terrifies her, she can imagine no alternative to becoming his wife. Still, she longs for something different, something better, something more.

Finishing her last year at boarding school, with the tuition paid by Sir John, Elisa falls in love with her handsome young art-master. Longing to paint for a living and hating being caged into a low paying teaching job, he casually muses,

“…Life itself is a mystery, my dear… I only know that every morning is a wonder, sometimes of delight, sometimes of horror. We search every day, craving approval, longing for peace, crying for affection, and usually settling for far less than our ideal.”

 Equally important to the story are scruffy actors Jeremy O'Connell and Katherine Stewart. Originally longing for fame and fortune, by 1903 they have it. Now London theatre stars, with their professional longings satiated, new longings surface. Jeremy is gay and loves his freewheeling lifestyle. He also loves playing husband to Katherine and father to her young son, the product of her long-time affair with their married theatre owner. Jeremy longs to keep his "family", and his lifestyle. He cannot have both. When Katherine's childhood love Simon Camden appears at a society Christmas party, Jeremy is horrified.

His patent-leather slippers gleamed and his nails were buffed. For a split-second, Jeremy hoped Simon had fallen in love with some other woman. When he spun Katherine around, then kissed her passionately, that hope dissolved.

Katherine laughed with pleasure. “We thought you were in New York.” She lovingly stroked his cheek, “I was so worried when your letters stopped coming.”

 “It’s a long story. I’ve missed you.”

 “Oh, certainly.” She laughed as he held her tight, kissing her again.

 Longing to yank them apart, Jeremy clenched his fists and waited for the interminable kiss to end.

 Later that evening, Simon finds Jeremy alone.

He posed melodramatically, raising the back of his hand to his forehead. “Kathy turned me down, once again.”

 Jeremy snorted, fluttering a hand. “If she ever said, ‘Yes,’ all your longing would disappear and your talent with it.”

 Simon pretended he had been socked in the stomach. “Ooh, that’s a good one, Jerry. Points for you.” His head came up under Jeremy’s chin.

 In a flash, Simon had Jeremy’s arm pinned behind his back. Jeremy laughed, shouting, “Uncle!”

For twenty years, I longed for a publisher to publish this story. I channeled the first 600-page draft in four months while working full-time, running a senior citizen center. Four months later, four agents wanted to represent the book. I was thrilled, BUT, my longings continued as publisher rejections poured in. Years went by and I expanded the story. 1200 pages and several screenplay adaptations later, (pulling single plot lines from the multi-storied work), 800 pages were pulled, edited into 4 short novels and published by Endeavour Media, UK. I'm thrilled, BUT, my longings continue. Now, I watch my TV/Film agent try to sell the story to production companies. If a film or miniseries is made I'll be ecstatic. BUT, will my longing end? Probably not.

Mark Rylance - a Star on Stage and Off

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I was thrilled to see a brilliant matinee of Broadway's FARINELLI and the KING. My friend, wonderful actor Simon Jones has joined the cast in the hysterical role of John Rich. I sat in a box, 3 stories above the stage and had a fantastic view. Looking up, I had a clear panorama of the Belasco Theatre's stain-glass ceiling windows. Looking straight down, through 6 chandeliers, with 12 lit candles in each, I could see the entire stage. Best of all, I could hear the glorious, unamplified renascence orchestra.

 

Simon had a lot of friends in the audience and invited us all down to the rather shabby basement green-room, after the matinee. The general public has no idea how unglamorous old Broadway theatres are, backstage. He quietly played the host, opening champagne bottles.

 

Almost unnoticed, working with his back to us, a short, slim man with greasy hair, wearing an old undershirt and cut-off sweatpants, prepared food and warmed it in a microwave. Watching him for a moment, I realized that he was the show's star, Mark Rylance.

 

Simon's guests chatted quietly. Rylance turned slightly and made a kind remark that we had been a wonderful audience. I moved to him and apologized that we were disturbing his break. He smiled and said that it was fine. I couldn't help but stutter that I was a huge fan. He smiled and almost whispered a shy, "Thank you." I left him in peace, putting his rice cakes together.

 

After hugging my darling Simon Jones, I left the theatre.

 

I am indeed a huge fan of amazing actor Mark Rylance. Briefly meeting the gracious man Mark Rylance, I became an even bigger fan.

My Lady Snow Leopard

My Lady Snow Leopard

I'm a certified music therapist lucky to live in beautiful Greenwich Village, NYC. One morning every week I join other well-dressed travelers crammed onto a ridiculously crowded subway train and travel to 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. Climbing out of that station, I often meet teams of transit police guarding the stairways. On the sidewalk, I pass folks hurrying to work, begging for loose change, screaming incoherently, or asleep in drug-induced stupors.

 

A few feet down the block is my workplace, a day treatment center for special needs adults. These individuals, aged 18 to about 55, struggle with a variety of intellectual, physical, and emotional disabilities. A few of the folks I work with can read at a second-grade level. Most cannot read or speak clearly. Many move with awkward gaits, are wheelchair bound, hearing or visually impaired.

 

At 9:00, in an airy, open space, I set up a piano keyboard with a microphone, put out rhythm instruments, and a pile of song sheets. I prefer starting music therapy sessions with a Hello Song, singing each participant's name. Since I don't have a "group", but rather a parade of folks trickling in whenever their buses arrive and wandering through the session at will, I start with whoever happens to be there first and wants to sing. I always end the session with a Goodbye Song. The names of the individuals still in the room are inserted into the lyric, "Goodbye, goodbye to ______, I'll see you next week."

 

When I started working at this site, a woman I'll call Margot always sat in the sessions. Margot is about my same size and weight. I guess she is in her forties. She has no verbal language but is not shy. She readily screams, grunts and laughs. We always know how she is feeling. Margot loved a small glockenspiel, would sit at a table, move rhythmically to the music others were singing, and play random tones. I was told that she refused to participate in other activities, hated being touched, was easy to anger, occasionally violent, and might not be allowed to stay in the program.

 

During one session, we had a fire drill and needed to walk down three flights of stairs. On the way back up, Margot grabbed my hand and lead me up the stars. After that, the Goodbye Song began upsetting her. I would start singing. She would start screaming and push me off my high piano stool. She was very strong. It was frightening. Other staffers saw what was happening and pulled her away from me. Days when I had no support staff, I couldn't sing the Goodbye Song, for fear she would attack me.

 

This lead to her attacking me when I tried to leave the building. She never actually injured me, but came close. The program director tried explaining to her that it was just Goodbye for now, and I was not leaving forever. Margot seemed unconvinced. Other staffers protected me, taking Margot out of sight, so I could leave the building unscathed.

 

When I needed to change my program day, Margot was warned every day, in advance. The program director told me that she still went ballistic when I did not appear on my old day.

 

Finally, week-after-week, Margot mellowed. I did nothing different, but somehow she began to trust that I would not abandon her. Now, she sits next to me at the piano, frequently standing to pet my shiny blond hair. Each week she has become more affectionate, stroking my cheek and leaning her forehead against the side of my head, as I play. She helps me set up and take down my equipment, and understands when I ask her to get something from another room. The first time we were in a new room, I asked Margot plug the keyboard cord into a wall socket. She couldn't find the socket, got frustrated and dropped the cord, but did not get angry.

 

One night, I had an extremely vivid, emotional dream. I was petting a large, beautiful snow leopard. The leopard stayed still, allowed my petting. I enjoyed the feel of its soft white-spotted fir, but could not tell if it enjoyed the feel of my hand. I was acutely aware that, any second, the leopard could turn and attack me. I even stroked its jaw and felt its teeth. It did not react. The dream was scary but lovely.

 

Waking up and analyzing my dream, I realized that the leopard was Margot: silent, lovely, and quietly terrifying. Since that dream, I feel a deeper connection to Margot. Last week, she clearly said, "Hi!" The first actual word I had ever heard her speak. When I finished packing up my music equipment, we were alone. She held out her arms, asking for a hug. I held her for a moment and let her go. She smiled and left to get her lunch. That hug was a simple, normal exchange between two friends. For Margot, it was a miracle.

 

I will never believe my snow leopard will become a pussycat. I do feel she may have shifted to another of her nine lives.

 

 

The Beginnings of Music Gives Life

The Beginnings of Music Gives Life

“There might be an appropriate place to teach old ladies how to sing, but is this it?” asked an administrator of a senior citizens’ center.

Legends at Tattingers

Legends at Tattingers

Years ago, I played a Waitress on the TV comedy/drama Tattingers. Posing as an upscale Manhattan restaurant, Tattingers hosted a delightful array of NYC celebrity guest stars.

Thursday Morning Joy

Thursday Morning Joy

Every Thursday morning, a little before 9:00, I arrive at 125th Street and Lexington Ave. Walking up the subway steps, I am greeted by a fellow giving away free newspapers, a few panhandlers, and lots of folks going to work.