Monday, March 31, 2014

LOVE IS A VERB

       They say, ". . .breaking up is hard to do.". I say it's a matter of timing and perspective - in which decade was it said and what kind of 'breaking' was had.  In 2014, it's a cinch.  At least two of the most common breaking ups in my life.  I invariably miss the juiciest part of gossip being relayed via cell phone because that's when all those devilish little signals in cyberspace decide to 'go on break'.  And, more germane to our subject matter, while catching up on email today - replete with birthday greetings from those with whom I've walked through life, I cried me an ocean.
       To wit.  "On a silent night when friends are few, I close my eyes and think of you.  A silent night. A silent tear. A silent wish that you were here." - Unknown. This from a gal who has more spit and vinegar than Putin on a good day. (His). Sniveling un-bravely, I forced myself to compose and reflect.  I thought of ALL the crazy, wonderful people with whom I've walked, then the crazy, wonderful things I did for and with them.
       Now the waterfall was of the bubbling sort.  Do tears ever giggle?  (It's not a test.  If you don't know the answer, the waters of the Chesapeake Bay will still be calm on the morrow.) Free associate/stray thought gardener that I am, I put that passage and Putin and a cartoon of "The First Day of Zen Gardening School" together and lingered on one particular wonderful crazy with whom I'd worked in community theater ages ago.
       Actually, I began to tell you this story not long ago and the cyberspace dervish just cut it off.  In mid-sentence, which was cantering to the really good part.  So.  From the top boys and girls.  Five, six, seven, eight. . .
       One day, while we were still living in our starter mansion on "As the World Turns" Street, a good friend from our little actors' group called.  Stan was all excited.  Panicked, really. (He always wore a bandanna around too-long hair.  I could feel the cloth drenching with sweat as he babbled.). He was basking in the honor of hosting a famous Polish acting company as it debuted an original script that would tour the US after leaving Norfolk.  Stan Fedyszyn knew that I was of Polish extraction.  (Stop that 'so that's it' nodding of the head, guys.  Unwarranted and rude.)
       He therefore assumed I spoke the language. (His name: Fedyszyn.  Mine: Leavy. You do the math. And now you can nod.  Briefly.). He told me to 'get to the theater' (we were using Norfolk's transformed-by-Stan historical library to mount our shows at the time) STAT because all the local media were coming to meet the international event-causing Polish director and Stan insisted that I conduct the shot-for-the-six-o'clock-news interview.  Telling him that my comprehensive Polish vocabulary was sketchy and my expressive non-existent was no deterrent.
       We all loved Stan.  He was a wild and brilliant director and true Renaissance Man.  That it was one o'clock, I had a four year-old son in my care was also of no moment.  I'd be expected in fifteen minutes - tops.  I was young.  Larks were looked upon as 'campy' - except by my neighbors who all used the same laundry to stuff their shirts - and Philip was an easy-going-to-the-theater-with-Mommy kid.  Now I was in adventure mode.  I donned a 'Mary Tyler Moore'-type white pants suit, grabbed a shoulder bag, notebook and pen, Philip, box cars and snacks and we were off.
       Turning onto cobble-stoned, Freemason Street, I was struck by the line-up of huge moving van trucks, hastily labeled with the touring company's name, parked curbside in front of the majestic Library.  The remote trucks from our local stations were already filming that scene, shrugging shoulders.  Parking in the makeshift driveway, I collected my son and our gear and marched up the many steps to the huge double doored entrance. Frantic Stan was just inside, grabbing my arm and placing Philip in the capable hands of his oldest daughter.
       As we trundled up to the green room, he went on about how charming the Polish talented visitor was, the importance, therefore, of a sterling performance on my part and the obvious boon to The Actors' Theatre if this caper went well.  I made no promises,  checked to see if my 'Mary' look was in place, and entered.  (They say, "One minute you're standing in the wings and the next, you're wearing them." I feared this fate.  Truly.)
       And then the imposing, effusive Man stood before me, grinning approvingly.  Unfortunately, he interrupted his grin with speech.  Concerned that whatever he was saying might require a response, I busied myself digging around in my purse for my prop (note pad), eventually fixing my gaze in something of an arranged 'awe' expression in an effort to buy more time.  I then understood enough to know he was talking about the play, its playwright and the all important "set".
       Lucky for me, he preferred show to tell and he placed a meaty hand on my elbow to guide me into the theater.  Our stage was designed by Stan to be 'theater-in-the-square' and it wasn't there.  Rather, the stage area was a square of dark brown dirt.  Recovering somewhat, I looked questioningly at the director as the news guys tip-toed in dragging equipment and lights.  The director's affect transformed into one of reverence as he explained with words and gestures that the "set" had been shipped to the states, loaded onto the vans and carted into the library.  I was about to 'experience' Polish soil.
       With the speed and grace of ocelot, he jumped down onto the 'soil', lithely lifting me, white heels and suit plus props, down with him.  And there we stood.  (Brain to Lorane: Think before just saying 'yes' to a Stan caper.). I could hear the cameras rolling, feel the mikes pointed at us.  I went with the bowed-head-lids-half-mast posture for as long as I could, then another gaze - this time at the soil which felt safe because I'd never known dirt to speak.  Suddenly, he knelt on one knee, grabbed a handful of this Polish gold, rose and ceremoniously took one of my hands, placed his prize into it and dramatically folded my fingers closed over what was now my special 'gift'.
       Emily Post having passed without addressing the proper decorum under these special circumstances (No elbows on the table, Em.  How about Polish gift of revered dirt in hand.  Huh, Em?). Now he had tears in his beautiful blue eyes preventing him from appreciating the consternation and budding ire in mine.  Well, I slowly opened my purse (and with a note pad and pen in my other hand, this move was accomplished with the grace of a hippo emerging from a three inch drain pipe) and very carefully placed my treasure into an un-zipped (God is good) side pouch, being sure to not leave any morsels behind in hand, as it were.
       Stifling chuckles with great difficulty and not so great success, the news crew got it all.  He climbed out of the'dig' deftly, lifting me with him, all the while muttering words of gratitude and delight.  I was introduced to the seven actors who would emerge at strategic points in the performance.  The last thespian had the starring role (I guess) as he would slowly, first hand, then arm, then body become completely erect and speak the only line in the script: "Ja", which translates to "I".  Unfortunately, the star reviewer got that wrong, reporting instead that the climactic one word was a heart-felt "eye", the symbolism of which he implied was obvious.
       As for me, the director re-escorted and deposited me into the waiting, grinning Stan's hands as, now even more energized, he had to get back to final dress rehearsal.  After a few too many rounds of double-cheek kissing topped by a hand kissing, I whispered "Merde" - totally inappropriate but I'd never had to say "break a leg" in Polish so I decided 'universal continental' was the way to roll.  And he was gone.  Stan was beaming.  The news crews were packing up, laughing at some private joke.  On cue, Philip came bounding into the green room, his face still smeared with chocolate icing.  Given my situation, cleaning up seemed a bit much.  Getting out and home and figuring out what to say in response to the conversation that would ensue following, "Honey, I'm home!" was the way to go.
       What price friendship? International camaraderie?  Or asparagus , for that matter.  When you love someone, it must be demonstrated.
Later, Lorane. . . .
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