August 30, 2005

-image-my alternate future, part 2

All right, peeps. I’ve worked up this very basic English-to-Machine-Steno Translation for you …. (or for those of us, ahem, nerds who find this vaguely interesting.) Oh, and the dashes before the letters means you use the final side/right side of the keyboard only. Got that, WordGirl? 😉

Now this takes up a lot of space, sorry, but keep scrolling down after it. I found an example of steno writing from a website. It’s a fancy- schmancy moving image that shows the writing with the translation.

Ooh! Ahh!

So check that out.

My next post will have a Machine Steno Translation CONTEST!

I’m working on posting something that YOU will need to translate correctly to ME. Haven’t decided what you’ll win.

“A sense of smug satisfaction” sounds good to me.

So study up and be ready for the EXCITEMENT!

Initial B: PW
Initial CH: K H
Initial D: TK
Initial F: T P
Initial G: TKPW
Initial H: H
Initial J: S K W R
Initial K: K
Initial L: HR
Initial M: P H
Initial N: T P H
Initial P: P
Initial QU: K W
Initial R: R
Initial S: S
Initial T: T
Initial V: S R
Initial W: W
Initial Y: K W R
Initial Z: SWR
Final B: -B
Final CH: -F P
Final D: -D
Final DZ: -DZ
Final F: -F
Final G: -G
Final J: -PBLG
Final K: -B G
Final L: -L
Final M: -P L
Final MP: -FRP
Final N: -PB
Final NG: -PB G
Final NJ: -PB G
Final NK: * -PB G
Final P: -P
Final R: -R
Final RCH: -FRPB
Final RF: -FR B
Final RVE: -FR B
Final S: -S
Final SH: -R B
Final T: -T
Final V: -F
Final X: -B G S
Final Z: -Z
Vowel A: A
Vowel A (Long): A EU
Vowel Aw: A U
Vowel E: E
Vowel E (Long): AO E
Vowel I: EU
Vowel I (Long): AO EU
Vowel O: O
Vowel O (Long): O E
Vowel OI: O EU
Vowel OO: AO
Vowel OU: O U
Vowel U: U
Vowel U (Long): AO U

August 29, 2005

-image-my alternate future

For the literally hundreds of people Googling for a steno machine image and getting this post — if you’re considering court reporting school, please, I beg you, read this post,too.

WHAT THE HECK IS THIS, YOU ASK?!


STENO MACHINE


UP CLOSE “KEY” TO A STENO MACHINE KEYBOARD

*********************************************************************

BUT STILL, WHY IS THIS ON MY BLOG?!

Well, betcha didn’t know I studied to become a court reporter, did you? S’true, I’m afraid. And I’m going to be revisiting this grand and glorious chapter of my past right here on this blog.

I thought I’d do a few posts on the mysterious, little-understood field of court reporting — because as it happens, I do know a LOT about it. I thought maybe I’d explain it a bit, share some stories from the trenches, and confess my reasons for never ultimately pursuing it as a career — and won’t that be tremendous fun?!

(And I cite M@ as the inspiration for this dredging of my past, mainly because I thought he might find it interesting. Perhaps some of the rest of you will, too. So I expect myriad comments, M@, in which you “ooh” and “ahh” and express astonishment, even if you have to fake it!)

Now, I say this will be “a few posts,” but let’s face it, I thought I could do the whole drama camp finale in ONE post and we all know how that turned out. So, honestly, I don’t know how many I’ll write. I may get caught up in it. Or I may get bored. I can’t say, but at least I’m saying that up front.

All right. Because I’m a rather lazyish blogger and because I thought it would amuse (me, at least), I’m starting with a non-court reporter’s explanation of what court reporting is. This is a recent article by David Engber at Slate on “what court reporting is all about.”

Of course, I chose this so I can make blatant editorial comments on his “expertise.” My comments in parentheses.

What’s That Thing Court Reporters Are Always Typing On?

(Oh, dear, Davey. Right off the bat, you’ve gotten it wrong and any court reporterish person reading your article would be somewhat offended by your use of the word “typing.” Court reporter types call it “writing,” quite haughtily, really, so I don’t know who you interviewed, because I simply can’t believe that person wouldn’t have made that QUITE clear, again, with a twinge of snobbery, as I just did. So please don’t call it typing. Or spelling, either, for that matter. It is in no way related except that fingers are used. So hmmphh!)

It’s called a stenotype machine, and it’s also used for captioning television broadcasts and general office stenography. (Huh? “General office stenography”? No. That’s a rare occurrence, indeed. It’s used for recording court proceedings, pre-trial depositions, and captioning, as mentioned above. I just love using the caption function on my TV. It’s fun to see what those captioners are trying to do and to be able to read through the “junk.”) The stenotype works a bit like a portable word processor, but with a modified, 22-button keyboard in place of the standard qwerty setup. Modern stenotypes have two rows of consonants across the middle, underneath a long “number bar.” Set in front of these are four vowel keys: “A,” “O,” “E,” and “U.”

How does it work? Court reporters can type (write!) entire words all at once by striking multiple keys at the same time. The left hand (called the initial side) spells (WRITES!) out the beginning of a syllable, while the right hand (called the final side) spells (AGAIN, argh!) out the end; all keys are pressed at the same time, and the machine produces an alphabet soup that’s incomprehensible to anyone who’s not trained in machine shorthand.

(A court reporter must attain 225 wpm to pass state boards. Some rare reporters — freaks, really — can write speeds of nearly 300 wpm.)

Court reporters spell (!?#!@?!) out syllables phonetically, but there aren’t enough keys on each side of the keyboard to cover every sound. Certain combinations of adjacent keys correspond to the missing consonants: For example, there’s no “M” anywhere on the keyboard, so you have to press “P” and “H” together to start a syllable with that sound. There is a “B” on the right side of the board, but none on the left—that means it’s easy to end a syllable with “B,” but for words that begin with “B” you need to hit “P” and “W” together.

Each court reporter might use different conventions to represent homonyms or other ambiguous words. At court-reporting school, you can learn one of at least half a dozen machine shorthand “theories,” which teach different approaches and general rules. But any experienced court reporter will work out his or her own abbreviations, especially for words and phrases particular to a given job. “May it please the court,” for example, could be shortened to a quick stroke, as could, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.”

(Ah, yes. Strokes like these are called “briefs.” Or as I used to call them “sweet, sweet briefs.” And here’s a little keyboard lesson that ol’ Davey isn’t giving you. Ready?

Home position for your hands: The fingers of the left hand rest along the gap between the two main banks of keys to the left of the asterisk (pinkie finger on the “S” to forefinger on the “H” and “R”). These fingers are used to stroke initial consonants. The fingers of the right hand lie in the corresponding position to the right of the asterisk (forefinger on “FR” to pinkie finger on “TS” — oh, and pinkie finger also controls the “DZ”.) This side is used for final consonants. The thumbs produce the vowels, so your left thumb rests on the “AO” and your right thumb rests on the “EU”. You’ve got it now, right?)

In the old days, everything the court reporter typed (did you even interview a court reporter, Davey? erghh!) would print to a roll of narrow paper tape. Later on, the court reporter would translate the notes back to English, and sometimes another court reporter, called a “scopist,” would check the translation. Now the translation is done by computer, and the fancier stenotype machines translate as they go. The paper tape still records the original notes, but an LCD display on the machine itself shows the words in regular English. (Ah, yes! But those paper notes are oh-so-important! They are the ultimate fail-safe if something else malfunctions technically. This is how important they are: Reporters are required to keep them for 7 years.)

A court reporter typically saves the spellings and abbreviations he uses into a personal dictionary on his home computer. These personal dictionaries can then be transferred to stenotype machines, most of which have floppy-disk drives or USB ports. Machines can be further customized, down to the sensitivity of each individual key. These changes reflect the relative strength of each finger: The “L” key under the scrawny right ring finger is often made less sensitive, since that finger is more likely to sag and touch the key by accident. (Oh, all right. That’s true. My scrawny little ring finger was weak.)

Almost all court reporters have their own customized machines, which they take with them on specific jobs. (Make that all jobs, Davey. Showing up for a job without your machine is generally frowned upon.) A brand-new, top-of-the-line stenotype costs up to about $4,500. Cheaper training models are a bit over $1,000.

****
That’s the rather abrupt ending to the article, so let’s just say that’s it for our little intro. Any questions? 😉

August 28, 2005

-image-ikea and the devil

So I’m at Ikea today. They’re having a sale on Flarkes and Prutas and Morkers, so, of course, I’m at Ikea today.

I’m strolling about with a cart that floats more than it rolls, needing rowing more than pushing. I list this way and that and back again, until suddenly, I start to feel like some modern day Peter, shopping on water, trying to stay afloat, desperate to keep my eyes on Jesus, who is waiting for me over by the Humlarps. I drift that direction, happy and sure, until I quickly glance down, lose control, and crash into a display. Furtive, I glance to see if Jesus saw that. He did. He shakes His head with a mixture of love and pity and disappears.

I didn’t want a Humlarp anyway.

I float away from the place where Jesus was and practically collide with

The Devil.

Really.

The Devil, for those who don’t know, is a tall and angular fellow with grayish hair and hawkish nose and greenish eyes. His khaki shorts and T-shirt seem to scream normal, bland even, so I just assume “normal”; that is, until I see the evil sandals.

The sandals, you see, are THOSE kind of man sandals that look not so much like sandals as instruments of torture. Thick, wide straps curl clawlike about the feet, strangling the very extremities a man thoughtlessly expects to schlep him about all day, up or down, fast or slow, on plush carpet or hot asphalt, without thanks or reward — ALL DAY, I say! — the very extremities that should be treated, not with negligence and cruelty and contempt but with care and tenderness and massages.

Just what is the seduction of these sandals, men? I implore you to cry out to God for the freedom of your souls …. and your soles. The Lord will forgive you even if I do not.

Repent ….

Or read on and see your sorry future.

Now …. I didn’t know that The Devil shops at Ikea, but here he is even so. I DID know that he’s a wrathful, wicked sort, so I’m not surprised to see him railing at a hapless salesgirl. We’re over by the linens and I am quietly but blatantly eavesdropping. The salesgirl is just a young and tiny thing, perhaps 16 or 17 years old. The Devil looms above her, the hollows of his cheeks fierce, crimson pools, and hisses:

“I am VERY angry! This is NOT okay with me!”

The poor salesgirl mumbles and scurries off like a wee frightened bunny. I purposely dawdle by the Dorflaks to hear what in hell is wrong with The Devil.

Now another salesgirl, also a little bunny, approaches. Bunny 1 and Bunny 2 shake as The Devil snarls:

“This sign on this bin says $15.99, but they charged me $34.99 for it at the checkout!”

He waggles the item in question above their heads.

“Well, sir –”

“THEN I had to walk all the way back here to prove to somebody what the price actually is! I am SO MAD! Are you the manager!?”

Bunny 2 squeaks out a “no.”

“WELL, I WANT THE MANAGER. BRING ME THE MANAGER NOW!”

I’m barely containing myself. Moments later, Head Bunny arrives and The Devil launches into his diatribe again. The Bunnies seem unable to eke out a single word.

“Can’t you see what this sign says!? I’m not paying $34.99 for this!”

I venture out from behind the shelves where I’ve been lurking. From my vantage point, about 10 feet away, I can clearly see a $34.99 price tag dangling from the display model of his item. It’s inches from The Devil’s elbow. How did he miss it?

Because he’s The Devil, that’s how.

He’s still ranting, red-faced and irrational. Shoppers are now giving the scene a very wide berth, gaping as they pass by. The Bunnies are losing, becoming mush, bunny stew. Finally, some foolhardy impulse to protect The Bunnies overwhelms me and I can take it no longer.

I step up, point to the tag, and speak:

“Sir, there’s a tag right here that says $34.99.”

When am I going to learn that you NEVER talk to The Devil??

He twists his head my direction. Unnaturally far, if you ask me.

“WHAT?!”

“Well, sir, this price tag has the same name as the item in your hand. And it’s $34.99.”

The Bunnies back away, wide-eyed. The Devil breathes fire at me.

“Well, I didn’t look at THAT! I LOOKED IN THE BIN!!”

The bin, you see, has an entirely different item in it which, amazingly, has an entirely different price tag than the one in his hot little hands. Somehow, The Devil seems to think that simply because HE CANNOT READ, he’s entitled to a price nearly $20 less than the actual price of his item. He also seems to think that he can continue to harass frightened little Bunnies until they thump away, crying, and he gets his way.

Somehow, I don’t know how, I remain outwardly calm.

“Well, sir, there seems to be a different item in the bin.”

This perfect “duh” moment passes by in crackling silence, unappreciated. The Devil spins completely about to face me and spits:

“YOU NEED TO GET LOST!! GETTTT LOSSSTTTT!!”

The words echo through the store, hanging there. Then instantly forgetting me, he whirls back towards the poor Bunnies, who are cowering at his outburst. All righty, then. He’s insane, but I’m stupid, and that’s worse. I’ve been NO help at all, have probably made the situation worse, even, and he’s not done with his rampage. I float my cart away from him, scanning the area for the nearest, largest, MALE Ikea employee. Finding one, I tell him:

“There’s a very unstable man around the corner harassing a few of your female co-workers. Do you think you could go help them? I think there needs to be another man there. And before you go, you might want to call security.”

Duh. Finally, something sensible comes to mind.

As I stand watching — at a distance now — two little, silver-haired ladies tiptoe up to me. Patting my arm, one of them says, “Oh, you are a dear.” (That’s charitable.)

“What a horrible man,” the other one joins. They begin speaking on top of each other, rapid fire, with no pauses between comments:

“he is so rude!” — “yes, rude” — “we heard what he said to you” — “oh, he is awful!” — “I think he’s crazy” — “we saw him at Lowe’s” — “yes, Lowe’s” — “and he was doing the SAME thing” — “yes, the VERY same thing” — “he makes me so MAD!” — “oh, I know he’s crazy” — “yes, CRAZY!”

Then, stopping their verbal volleys, one of them snorts with contempt:

“I noticed he is NOT wearing a wedding ring.”

Her friend sniffs, “Well, what a surprise. Just look how happy he makes women!” They laugh and snort again and walk away from me, saying, “Bye-bye, dear.”

Turning back to the scene, I watch as security finally escorts The Devil out of Ikea. I sigh and leave the store with my prized Trofkes and Prutas in tow.

But out in the parking lot, I admit … I glance over my shoulder a few times.

August 24, 2005

-image-curtain calls/curtain cries, part 3-b

Brother and husband look at me.

“Please. I don’t want some scene.”

“All right,” Brother sighs. My Beloved is still eerily quiet. I walk away, unconvinced and unnerved.

It’s 10:59. Showtime. Joey takes her seat, smiling and waving energetically at me. I barely raise my hand in return, unable to feign enough perkiness. Pretense is required here and, gah, I just hate pretense. But, paradoxically, I also hate my inability to muster the pretense needed to seem normal in little social scenes like this one. So I barely raise my hand, but berate myself for barely raising my hand.

The show finally gets under way. I stand off to the side, still sweating, still wondering if my Go-To Kid is gonna Go or Blow, still wondering if My Beloved and Brother will stop their plotting and stay away from Joey, and still wondering if our keyboard player is going to mess up the part I think she’s going to mess up.

It’s a kind of rhythmic dialog section with accompaniment. Frankly, at this moment, I don’t know why I wrote it. The keyboard player is “sure” she’s got it. I have my doubts, so much so that I’m about two seconds away from actually shoving her off her poofy bench and doing it myself. (See, I have demons. Just not the kind Joey thinks.) Well, here it comes.

Now, I’m very careful to say this rhythmic dialog only in my head because I don’t want to be one of THOSE kiddie play directors who moves her mouth, saying all the lines, singing all the songs, drawing attention to herself as some clammy, uptight crackpot who has no faith in her performers. I AM all those things, but I prefer to ACT as though I am NOT.

Annddd …… rats. Turns out I was right to have those doubts.

Ah, well, she covers it, sort of. My actors look petrified and lost for only a split second. No one cries, which is certainly good.

Honestly, I’m amazed. So far, so good. The audience is even laughing because they’re supposed to laugh, not because some disaster has befallen the show a la the movie “Parenthood,” where the little brother gets upset because he thinks his sister onstage is really being hurt, when of course, she’s not, but he’s only 3 and doesn’t know that, so he yells out, “You’re hurting my sister!!” then storms the stage, trying to save her, but mayhem ensues and the entire set falls over and the play is ruined and it’s hilarious.

But my play isn’t over yet.

And my favorite moment is about to occur: The Kid in “Day by Day.”

You remember him. He’s the one who sings:

“ooooOOOOHHHhhh dddDDDEEAARRRrrrr LllooOOORRDdddd, THREE THINGS I ppprrAAAaay!!!”

He positively wails up and down, like a siren. I can’t wait. I’m watching no one else but him right now. Sorry, drama queens, but The Kid has made this his moment.

AND ……

OH, LORD, HE’S JUST STARING AT THE FLOOR, LOOKING LIKE HE’S GONNA CRY OR WET HIS PANTS!

Seems The Kid is our first casualty of stage fright. He doesn’t wail or howl or bellow. I’m not sure he even sings the words and if he does, it’s more of a private, mournful croon to the carpet than his usual yowl to God and the entire WORLD.

All right. That kills it for me, folks. The show is ruined.

(And I am NOT being a drama queen!)

But, drat it all, I’m forced to grieve quickly because my Go-To Kid’s moment is fast approaching. I see his face has paled from its pre-show purple to a plumpy pink. His line is written on a piece of paper, taped to the back of a chair. All he has to do is glance at the paper and say the line. Hopefully, he won’t just stare at the paper. Hopefully, he’ll say it loudly enough. Oh, and hopefully he’ll say it slowly enough. So that’s “all” he has to do.

Hmm.

Hmm.

What was I thinking, throwing all that pressure at him, last minute!?! He’s gonna choke! I start chewing my fingernails and I don’t chew my fingernails. I wonder if my body will ever feel dry again. All I can do at this moment is watch and wait and pray the pink doesn’t turn to purple.

AND ……

THE GO-TO KID GOES!!! HE DOES IT! IT’S LOUD AND CLEAR AND PERFECT!

HOORAY FOR THE GO-TO KID!!!

My brain dances a little mental jig of joy at this. And, suddenly, somehow, from that moment on, magic happens. Theatre magic, which is a singular kind of magic. All my little drama queens jump off their presumed thrones and actually earn their glittering crowns. Even the Little Fart, costume-less, manages to stay upright the entire show. I stand back, awestruck at this looney alchemy, wondering how they did it, even though as director, I should know how the trick is done. But that’s the glory and mystery of theatre. You might know how the trick is done, but it’s never done the same way every time.

All thoughts of what might happen with Joey and Brother and My Beloved disappear as I watch my little drama queens take their triumphant royal bows to the echoing cheers of their families and friends.

They did it. They really did it.

And I’m bustin’, I tell ya. Just bustin’.

As the crowd gathers ’round for after-show refreshments, I’m swept up in a wave of hugs and flowers and congratulations. I feel as though I’ve just won Miss America — but without that dreadful swimsuit competition. Joey tries a few times to approach me, but I’m never alone and My Beloved skulks about, casting a long, surly shadow. Several minutes go by. Finally, she seems to decide she has something to say to me and pushes her way through those poor, sugar-starved kids crowding the cookie table. I can’t manuever away before she’s on me, gushy and hyper and wiggly. I just look at her and wonder if she’s been hitting the Krispy Kreme box. Numbly, I mutter some thanks to her. The moment seems about to stretch to the breaking point when I’m saved by a kid who scrambles up and squeezes my waist. Joey slinks off as I look down into the shining face of one of my little leading ladies. She hands me a large, purple-and-pink-striped paper heart that has these words and this punctuation written crookedly across it:

“Dear Mrs. Tracey,

Thank you so much for 2 weeks of fun!! I had a super time!! Thank you for being so encouraging to me!! I love drama camp!! I hope to do drama again!! Thank you for teaching me to be an actress!!

Love,

Lindsey”

She squeezes me again and my face is moist, this time with tears.

Ah, these little drama queens.

How they do get to you in the end.

August 16, 2005

-image-curtain calls/curtain cries, part 3-a

(Our story continues with part 3-A:)

THAT’S IT. I am sweaty. I am stressed. I am annoyed! All thought is abandoned as my two-week-long fantasy simply springs out of my head full grown, like Athena, only evil and stupid. I whirl upon the little Floor Roller:

“Of course you did, you beastly, beastly boy!

The air hangs heavy with the words.

Words I didn’t really say, but did I have you going for a second?

All right. Rewind.

I don’t “whirl” upon the Floor Roller. Actually, I take a moment to close my eyes, testing to see if my ears close with them. Maybe I didn’t really hear that. Maybe I don’t really see my husband and brother talking sideways, plotting Joey’s death before my very eyes. Maybe I don’t really see my Go-To Kid taking these precious, pre-show moments to hyperventilate himself purple.

The Floor/Arse Roller/Twiddler speaks again. (Put in that order, we may simply call him the Little Fart.)

“Mrs. Tracey, I — ”

Rats, I do hear him. Now I have to look at him. Smoothing the frown that comes at the mere maddening thought of him, I turn around.

Well, at least he’s standing.

“Yes, Little Fart. You forgot your costume.”

“Uh-huh,” he whimpers.

I keep waiting for him to collapse to the floor. I was unaware he could speak standing up.

“Well, Little Fart, that just means that –” you know what that means, Little Fart?”

“What?” sniffles the Fart.

“– you will have to wear what you have on.”

“But I need a costume, don’t I?!” he wails.

“Well, but now you need what you have on. It’ll be fine.” I am brusque, fed up with this Little Fart. God help me, but I actually turn on my heel and walk away from him.

Warily now, I approach brother and husband. Still engrossed in watching Joey, they don’t even notice me until I mutter:

“What are you guys up to?”

Their heads turn towards me in unison.

“Just watching what’s going on.” My Beloved sounds casual.

“Uh-huh,” I say, narrowing my eyes at them.

Brother drips venom when he speaks:

“I thought she said there was a demonic stronghold over our whole family. Wife is probably safe, but Button Baby has our demon blood in her.”

He gestures to the two of us.

“True,” I say.

“Well,” he continues, “Joey shouldn’t get too close to her, then. You know.”

He raises his hands, rakes the air with his fingers, making the “demon sound.”

“Get away from my baby!” he hisses low.

I can’t help it. I laugh, but stop when I glance at My Beloved. He is eerily quiet, staring at Joey’s back. Now, My Beloved is a good-natured, low-key fellow, unless he perceives an injury to me. Not to himself, to me. Then there is no reserve of protective anger too deep to summon, nothing he won’t do to charge in as my champion. His quiet right now is not good. I know he is simmering.

Brother breaks the silence, speaking through clenched teeth what, I suppose, is foremost in our ugly, collective thoughts:

“I just want to kick her in the ass.”

Egad. Here we are, surrounded by all the little Christian drama queens and all their Christian parents. We’re Christians. We’re standing in a chapel, for God’s sake, but raging testosterone is creating just a touch too much swagger, a touch too much seethe that I’m scared there’s gonna be a rumble, a rowdydow, a real hubbub.

I scowl up at both of them, trying to level this house that hormones built.

“Look. Just stay away from her. Stay away. PLEASE.”

(and …… you know ….)

August 15, 2005

-image-update to the update

Life getting in the way of blogging?! Unheard of!

I’ll try to post the final installment of our sad tale tomorrow — Tuesday.

Please bear with me!

T.

August 12, 2005

-image-curtain calls/curtain cries, part 2

UPDATE, SUNDAY EVE.: I was out of town this weekend, that’s why this is taking so long to finish! I didn’t finish it all before I left, so I just posted what I had. I’m back now and expect to finish … any day.

All right. Now where are we in the story? Ah, yes.

My Go-To Kid, Jack, is blubbing, a gushing geyser. My tardy keyboard player is looking unimpressed with the whole shabby operation. And all my drama queens have rushed me, hoping the Go-To Kid is toast, praying that one of them can inherit his singular line — a line destined to create a Golden Theatre Moment, a line sure to vault its speaker into the pantheon of theatre gods, a line that conjures both magic and mayhem when uttered:

“Over here! Over here! Shoot the Stars! Shoot the Stars!” (*)

Whatever, drama queens. Carpe Diem. Shoot the Stars.

I shush the queens, rather sharply, prying myself away from their sweaty little circle of greed. My Go-To Kid is still up there, whimpering now into his frankfurter fingers. The other actors onstage have huddled far away from poor Jack. They have their own lines in this scene so they haven’t stormed the castle that is my personal space like the other kiddies did. They seem to have decided that Jack has theatre cooties or something and, ewww, gross, they certainly don’t want to be near anyone with those. No, God forbid, their stellar performances might be impaired!

I bound up to Jack, wrap my arm across his shoulder. We are both moist; he with tears, me with worry. He wails and hiccups:

“I’m sss-o-O-o-OO-rr-r-RRY, Mrs. Tracey!”

Ah, the poor little sausage.

“Oh, Jack, it’s okay. Don’t worry. I know you can do it.”

I didn’t, really.

My Go-To Kid continues:

“Eeeeee-ee-eeee-eee-ee-sniff-ee-EE-eee ….”

It’s now 10:26. I can’t think. The glowing-eyed kinderhounds on the floor are watching, drooling at Jack’s meltdown. I glance at them and scowl a scolding scowl. Clearly, God and compassion are being trampled under their marauding little theatre lusts.

I pull Jack farther away from the puny fiends.

“You know what, Jack? It’s gonna be okay. We’ll write your line on a piece of paper and tape it to the back of this chair. The audience won’t be able to see it. Okay?”

“EEE –eeee–ee-eee ….. O-oo-o-kk-k-kay, Mrs. Tracey.”

I mutter at one of my assistants to take care of it. We run the scene one last time, with the cheat sheet in place. He gets it right, but it’s shaky. I shout praises at him and he smiles a flush-faced, soggy smile. Silently, I exult to see the greedy glow of the kinderhounds fade at the sound of my loud encouragment.

It’s 10:30. The house opens at 10:45. We run a few key spots, which is all that time allows. We pull our cast aside for one last pep talk, open the house, and encourage the kids to greet their families.

Now, opening the house means several things to me. One of them is this: The arrival of two people who simply should not be in the same room right now. First, my one-time, longtime best friend Joey, known as She Who Claimed I — and my whole family — Have Demons AND, second, my brother, heretofore unmentioned, but mentioned now as He Who Is Very Angry With She Who Claimed I — and my whole family — Have Demons.

(She, however, does not know this.)

I’m sure I must have mentioned that Joey brought her son to drama camp?

So, you see, my pre-show willies and sweats are not entirely due to production woes.

Now why, you may be wondering, would Brother come to a kidde play when kiddie plays are always dicey, at best? Well, my current Co-Director is his wife, someone also none too thrilled with Joey. In Brother’s arms, happily slurping her thumb, is my wee 18-month-old niece, the cutest, buttonest baby in the world.

Add to this list My Beloved and you have the cast of characters now oh-so-harmoniously converging in my clammy, strung-out world.

It is 10:47. I sprint to the restroom and back, thinking, apparently, that running will dry me off. Back in the auditorium, I happen upon this scene that, frankly, does nothing for my nerves:

Sister-in-law stands at the front of the auditorium with Button Baby in her arms. Hovering over my niece, who looks a bit puckered by the nearness and largeness of the face, is Joey. My sister-in-law looks nearly as puckered as Button Baby.

Egad. I can’t breathe.

To their left, leaning up against the far wall, are Brother and My Beloved. If I could breathe, I might nearly laugh, because from my vantage point, I can see that these two men in my life wear exactly the same expression: a scowl so low and so murderous that the eyebrows seem about to choke the very eyes themselves. I watch them. They are speaking to one another in that twisted lip way, out of the side of their mouths, trying to be inconspicuous. It’s a laughable attempt, truly. These are not inconspicuous men in any cirumstance. My Beloved is 6-foot-3, dark-haired, blue-eyed; Brother is tall, too, with a shock of blonde swimmer’s hair and a perpetual carmel-colored tan. People notice them anyway. But now, now they are whispering with such contorted vehemence, such bumbling discretion, that it simply screams out, “LOOK AT US, WORLD! WE ARE BEING TERRIBLY INCONSPICUOUS!!”

Whatever is being said, they are none too jolly. I know my brother. He mustn’t be allowed to take one step closer to Joey.

Worlds are colliding here. I need to go over there now, but, egad, I can’t move.

Just then, a small voice from behind me. Ah. It’s the little Floor Roller:

“Mrs. Tracey, I forgot my costume.”

I think the Brown Pants Moment just might be upon me.

(and to be continued still …. sorry ….)

(*) One of the too-many “throwaway lines” I need to write so that more li’l kiddies can have lines and more li’l grownups can love me whilst I hate myself. But I’m not bitter about it. At all.

August 10, 2005

-image-how fun is THIS?

Megen at On the Thames shares this whimsical, new idea: BookCrossing.

What is that, you wonder? Well, here:

bookcrossing
n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.

Megen describes it for us’un:

Here’s what it is in a nutshell: People leave books all over the place for others to enjoy. There two roles- Releasers and Finders. A Releaser registers a book, stamps or labels it inside that it is a BookCrossing book, and then “releases it into the wild”. Anywhere, although you note on the site where-about you released it.

Then you wait. Until a Finder finds it and goes online to note it’s been found. A Finder probably isn’t a BookCrosser, but someone who just stumbled upon it (and is able to follow directions to log on and keep the fun going). A BookCrosser can also “go hunting” by checking on local cities where books were released.

I went virtual hunting in CA. There was a book left in the surgery waiting room at Mission Hospital, in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point, and in the pay phone in front of Mervyns off Alicia Parkway. Here in England, most are left on trains. And they show up all over the world! English language books that started in Canada end up in South Africa.

Sounds fun! All right, peeps. Go to the BookCrossing website linked above for more details. And let’s start planning to release some creativity back into the wild!

H/T: Jeannine

-image-my new friend, innocent smith

I’ll be posting Part 2 of “curtain calls/curtain cries” tomorrow, most likely. But I had to write this wee post about a book I have only just started and am loving: “ManAlive” by G.K. Chesterton. (Okay. The name’s not great. Move past it.)

The book tells the tales of one Innocent Smith, rather a strange, unconventional sort, thus far, but a captivating one nonetheless.

I mean, how can you not like a fellow who literally BLOWS upon the scene during a Great Wind?

How can you not want to root for a fellow described thusly:

“He had bright blonde hair that the wind brushed back like a German’s, a flushed eager face like a cherub’s and a prominent pointing nose, a little like a dog’s. His head, however, was by no means cherubic in the sense of being without a body. On the contrary, on his vast shoulders and shape, generally gigantesque, his head looked oddly and unnaturally small. This gave rise to a scientific theory (which his conduct full supported) that he was an idiot.”

AND thusly:

“He had the sensualities of innocence; he loved the stickiness of gum and he cut white wood greedily as if he were cutting a cake. To this man wine was not a doubtful thing to be defended or denounced; it was a quaintly-colored syrup, such as a child sees in a shop window. He talked dominantly and rushed the social situation; but he was not asserting himself, like a superman in a modern play. He was simply forgetting himself, like a little boy at a party. He had somehow made a giant stride from babyhood to manhood, and missed that crisis in youth when most of us grow old.”

Ah. Brilliant.

Can’t wait to keep reading.

August 9, 2005

-image-tales from the tipped

I love, love, love this website.

Makes you want to be really nice to waiters. Just really very nice.

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress