Riding the Bus: A Love Story

Fung Wah Bus Van Hool C2045 coach on a stopove...

March 30, 2012, Boston, MA

I sit on the floor, the cold from the rust-colored tile seeping through my pants. There are seats next to me, but I want to try to get a front seat on the bus, so I sit in line. The Chinese bus (Fung Woh) just loaded, so I hear the chatter of Chinese around me. I’m watching people, trying to be subtle about it. I don’t really have to be subtle though, as most people protect themselves with various technological devices. I bet that travelling by bus in the past was friendlier, as people asked questions and discussed the adventure ahead, rather than hiding behind mini screens.

Flashback, A Peter Pan Bus, Sometime in 1990

I remember falling in love, briefly, with a man on a bus. I was taking the bus home from college, either just before or just after I graduated. I got into a discussion with this cute black guy who was heading home from college as well. We talked the whole ride: about our times at schools 20 minutes from each other, about our fears as both of us graduated, about life and dreams and where we were heading from there. My future was still unknown. I can’t recall what his was, maybe moving to New York or something. “I wish we had met earlier,” he said. “Me too.” I surprised myself with that reply as I was perennially shy with guys. He got off the bus before my stop, and we never saw each other again. These were the days before everyone had cell phones, e-mail addresses and Facebook. For people in transition, contact was more challenging. I believe we exchanged phone numbers, but his life was moving forward quickly. A flame for a moment that blew out with a puff of smoke.

March 30, 2012, Boston, MA

Now the line is silent. Nobody speaks, not even the people travelling together. There are a few hushed conversations, and a few less-hushed cell phone conversations. Most of the noise comes from buses beeping, honking, moving, backing up. Nobody really makes eye contact even. I try to look up and be friendly, open–but that is not the norm nowadays. That seems like such a sad loss. The Fung Wah bus backs out and moves away, opening the space for my Megabus to move in. It’s still early though, so there is nothing to do but wait.

Waiting for the bus home in NYC.

Lisa Head’s to the Big City, A Rebus

Tomorrow I will get on a 

and head back to

I will meet my friend

who is beautiful inside and out.

teaches for

and asked me to come be a guest lecturer in her class.

What that really means is that I will be my normal, goofy self.

I hope she knows what to expect.

In addition to the

(where the students will be much older)

I get to enjoy a girl’s weekend in

which will include:

and

although I’m sure nothing will make me look as beautiful as

We will also attend a performance of THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF HEDDA GABLER at

which I am very excited about.

According to

there are more adventures in store as well.

So if you don’t hear from me for a few days,

Just know that I am out and about with a huge

on my face.

Start Spreading the News . . .

THE TRAVEL POEM
by Sarah KramerLee

Travels go through your mind.
Travels make us proud.
Travels turn into adventures come true.

Photo taken by Sarah KramerLee at the top of the Empire State Building (Ignore all the dates on Sarah's photos. I didn't know she had it set incorrectly)

Photo by Sarah KramerLee

We had a wonderful little jaunt into New York city. I always have moments of, “I wish” when I go through New York, wondering what would have happened if I had taken a chance and pursued a theatre career in New York. . But, I came back from this trip determined to not look back with regret, or “woulda coulda shoulda” thoughts. The journey is now, and I am learning to truly embrace that journey.

Our trip hiccuped to a start. We were supposed to spend the night before we left in Mystic, CT with a friend of mine from college. However, Nathan had to work (striking a set) until Sunday evening, and in the rush to get out we brilliantly left the train tickets behind. Luckily we realized that only about 30 minutes into the drive, but we decided to return home and start the adventure again in the morning.

We still drove into Mystic so we could have a yummy breakfast there and then waited at the train station. It was a lovely day to wait for a train.

When you travel with the Kramer Lee’s never be surprised by the appearance of creative flights of the imagination, even on a train.

When we got to New York, I had to laugh. The other day, when I mentioned I was a little nervous about presenting at the travelogue, the fabulous Jamie from Life of Jamie suggested I picture David Beckham in his underwear. So, I could not help but giggle gleefully when the very first thing I saw as I walked out into the streets of New York from the train station to see this:

Somehow I knew the trip would be a success!

We had a few hours to kill before we could head to our friend’s apartment in Queens. What better way to introduce Sarah to NYC then going up the Empire State Building.

I loved being high enough to see the division between rain and sun over the city.

From there we wandered over to Times Square, full of sights, sounds, people, and theatre posters galore. I love the lights and colors there. Sarah and Nathan went into Toys R Us, leaving me on bag guard duty, but I used the time to take more pictures.

The next day we went to see the Jim Henson Exhibit at the Museum of Moving Images. Unfortunately we weren’t supposed to take photos of his exhibit. I would have loved to, because I found so much inspiration there. I loved the fact that Henson used yellow pads to sketch out his ideas. Somehow it makes his genius and talent seem more human and possible. One of the displays quoted “The Imagination Song” sung by Ernie on Sesame Street and I can’t resist including it here because it speaks so much to me about Jim Henson’s magic.

While there. All of us had the opportunity to play, including creating our own mini animation videos. I was hoping to include mine here, but can’t figure out how. Sigh.

That evening was the Travelogue, where I read my post about Travel as Inspiration. I guess I did ok. Sarah wrote the above poem and that was presented (she wouldn’t do it herself). Nathan talked about a trip he took after college. He was fabulous, sounding like a podcast on the Moth.

We also got a moment to catch up with a friend we haven’t seen in 16 years. Although it was only for a brief time sadly. Another mysterious puppet made an appearance as well.

The adventure ended with delicious bagels and a rousing game of Uno before we caught the train and rode into the snow.

I wonder where the next adventure will lead.

Writing Ahead, Planning for Adventures

I just wrote a long post. You won’t see it until Tuesday at 5pm.

I know many of you do this, writing posts ahead and scheduling when they will publish. It feels a little strange to me. I guess I use this blog as a place to reflect on the immediate emotions and ideas that pop into my head. Perhaps it means my writing suffers for it, as I don’t take time to refine. I know that I often go back and fix horrible grammatical errors or really poor wording. But usually my posts just go, pouring out of me in the instant I feel like writing them.

Maybe that’s why my blog only grows at a snail’s pace rather than a cheetah’s.

English: Common variety snail Comment by F. We...

Image via Wikipedia

Well, anyway, I am holding back on this post because it is something I have written to share at Dramatic Adventure Theatre’s Travelogue on Tuesday evening. I plan to read it at this open mike event, if I don’t chicken out. So I’ve timed the post to publish at the same time the event begins. I’m letting you know  now, in case any of my reader’s are in New York City and feel like checking the event out. It’s free.

Gulp! I just invited more strangers. Eek!

Anyway, as I wrote and prepared, my mind took its usual journey into self-doubt.  I questioned whether or not it was good enough. Is any of my writing good enough? I am sharing an essay, should I be sharing poetry? Maybe I shouldn’t share a single thing?

But what is this blog if not a place for sharing–even if some of my work does not live up to my ideals? And why did I take the trip to Slovakia if I am unwilling to explore and follow wherever that journey leaves?

So tomorrow evening my family and I will take a little trip together. First we head to Connecticut to stay with a friend for the evening. Then we take a train to New York City. I am excited for Sarah’s first trip to NYC. She’s excited too, even though it means missing a few days of school.

We don’t really have specific sight-seeing plans for New York. Maybe we will go

The Empire State Building.

Image via Wikipedia

to the Empire State Building. Maybe we will end up somewhere else. We do want to go to the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image, because we are a family of puppet lovers.

While I don’t plan on bringing my computer, I think I will be doing a lot of writing on this trip. We will only be away until Wednesday but the possibilities are endless. Meanwhile, to pre-post or not to post, that is the question.

We shall see what inspiration hits.

A World Sliding Backwards

I had a little wrangle with bureaucracy today and gave up in a fit of frustration (or maybe a temper tantrum).

I simply wanted to accept my current reality and change my driver’s license from Colorado to Kansas. I admit, I clung to the Colorado license for a couple of reasons. Ostensibly, I held onto it because we owned the house in Durango, and I thought it would be good for one of us to still be considered a resident. In reality, though, I did not want to say good bye to Durango, and even more I didn’t want to embrace my existence in Kansas. There was also the fact that they took a really cute license photo last time, and I didn’t want to let it go.

But, we officially closed on the house and it looks like I’m stuck living here for a while longer, so I figured it was time to give in and get a new driver’s license.

“Do you have your birth certificate and marriage license?”

“Well, no.”

“A current passport will do. We need you to prove your married name.”

“But I didn’t change my name when I got married. I’ve had this name on every license since I was 16.”

“We need your passport or your birth certificate and marriage license. Oh, and proof of address.”

“Well, I’m moving into a new rental in a few weeks. I was hoping I could put that address on.”

“Not without proof.”

Needless to say, I still have my Colorado license for a while. I have my passport, but I could not deal with the bureaucracy anymore today. Besides, I feel like the passport isn’t going to be enough, because I kept my name when I got married. Its like I did something wrong, daring to maintain my identity and keep my last name.

Don’t get me wrong. I see nothing wrong with taking your husband’s name when you get married. But for me, it didn’t feel right for a number of reasons. I reserve the name change for my future (imaginary) career as a radio talk show host a la Dr. Ruth–then I will become Dr. Lisa Lee the Love Dr.

We could be twins. 😉

What really bothers me about all this was the implication about my name. I suddenly recognized that marriage, in the eyes of some laws, means that I am the property of my husband, or at the very least his legal responsibility. I mean, nobody asked him for his marriage license when he changed to the Kansas license last year. Why should I have to provide mine?

I am the property of nobody. I am responsible for myself.

Is that craziness, or just Kansas?

Well, after I finally finished jumping through bureaucratic hoops (I also had to pay for my tags today–a nice chunk of change) Sarah and I got lunch at the only coffee shop in town. I read the Tulsa paper as I was waiting only to be repulsed by the fact that Kansas is trying to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, while also forcing them and two other agencies that provide abortions to go through some inspections to grant them the right to perform abortions–inspections which might inevitably fail in pulling those rights (they’ve already yanked it from one of the three). That would make Kansas the only state to not provide any resources for this as well as the first state to pull all funding from a State Arts Council.

So basically, I believe I am now living in a state that wants me barefoot, pregnant, and the property of my husband without the ability to support myself by doing the work I do the best which involves Arts Education.

You know what scares me the most? The potential that our country could easily continue to slide in this horrific direction–backwards to a world where equality exists only in the mouths of men.

 

The Balance of the Detail

When I created my little award the other day, I sparked an interesting discussion on the role of detail in writing.

So, for the sense of clarity, I’m going to go a little more into detail about what I meant. 😉

I’m not arguing for long, drawn out passages of purple prose that try to paint a picture for the reader that would be better done through a visual. Nor am I arguing for sentences that wrap words around each other in a complex convolution that ultimately has no meaning or does not move the story forward. I’m the first person to skim through those verbose passages as my inner vision never matches the description anyway. I will put down a book that tries so hard to be linguistically beautiful that the author says nothing with a lot of words.

No, the magic details that I referred to are those simple details that bring a story or a passage to life. Those details could be expressed in a few words, but with those few words an entire character/place/emotion comes to life. Those are the details that I want to learn to weave more strongly into my own writing.

I’ve been reading argument paper drafts this morning. One of my students wanted to argue about gay marriage, and why it should be allowed. Now, I obviously support gay marriage, but this particular student’s paper was completely unconvincing. The only argument he used was the fact that in  America “every man is created equal.” He kept repeating this argument throughout the paper, until he threw in a list I’ve seen before of sarcastic arguments about why gay marriage should not be allowed. (He also did not cite the list properly, but that’s a whole different issue).  We all know that our country doesn’t  really practice what it preaches, and gays are not the only ones who suffer because of it. So, without more details, his argument suffered because it wasn’t really an argument, it was a rant.

That’s my problem, rants without support. Rants without details.

As I was thinking about this post this morning (since about 4 am when insomnia struck again) I remembered a poem I wrote a while back that I haven’t really shared. Why? Because this poem came from the details around me, and I think those details support its meaning. It is not perfect, but I thought I would share. I am putting this in as a PDF, since I can never figure out how to make the formatting on my poems work.:

HOUSE OF BITTERNESS

So, to sum it all up, don’t worry that I am going to bore you with long, detailed descriptions of meaningless drivel. My challenge to myself is to learn to  perfect my use of  details, not to abuse them.

Finally I will share with you a couple of images I am stealing borrowing from my brother, because I love the details.

The Magic is in the Details

Writing

Today I want to point out two magnificent posts from the past week that have made me realize something about my own writing, something that I am going to challenge myself to change. Both these writers captured me with the eloquence of their details–details which made the locations and people that they were writing about  come alive in my heart and  my brain.

Ed, over at Salt ‘n Peppah, wrote this stunning descriptive passage on a day when  New York took a positive step toward change by legalizing gay marriage:

“The Stonewall Inn was barely open this early afternoon. “The gays” typically don’t begin bar hopping until much later in the early evening, so the bar was deserted, except for a short little fire plug bartender named typically, Joe. He welcomed us in immediately as if desperate for company on this miserable Saturday afternoon. Folding our dripping umbrellas and leaving them by the front door, I looked around. You could smell the age and the mustiness of this dark and dingy place. A thick painted tin ceiling and dark poster filled walls hugged us as small tables were tossed about a small elevated “stage” hardly protected by a single red velvet rope. Black and white photos of the now famous “Stonewall Riots” were haphazardly placed around on the deep paneled walls of this establishment. Framed newspaper and magazine clippings of history were draped behind the bar. Somehow the light of day made this bar look like me when I wake up in the morning. Raw and exposed. Pale and puffy. Vulnerable yet somehow as cozy as the thick fleece robe I throw on to ward off the early morning chill.”

(Here’s the link to the rest of his post, called “Stonewall“.) Eds post was powerful because of its timeliness, but also because of  the details. He described a place in a way that showed an emotion and brought into focus the world around us. I wish I could do that. Yes, I know that I am good at ideas and issues, but I feel severely lacking in the details.

As usual  when I read Kathy’s post at Reinventing the Invent Horizon, my awe of people who can  write the details so they strengthen the message only grew.  Kathy is a master at  making details come to life to show the truth in the story she shares. Here’s an example from the post called “Close Encounters with Well-Wigged Old Women and other Adventures in Government-Subsidized Housing”:

“Bea, like Evelyn, had obviously, at one time, been a stunningly beautiful woman, a fact betrayed by facial features that shown through despite her age—high cheek bones and big, blue eyes that still twinkled when she smiled.

Bea was one of the few ladies in the group who didn’t wear a wig, and for a woman well into her 90s she had a head of gorgeous, light brown curls.  True her hair was largely gray, but she retained enough of the brown to surprise you, since otherwise she looked so old and borderline antique.

Bea was also one of the ladies who slept most afternoons, waking herself up every few minutes with her own overly-sized snores.

But then again, Bea never stayed more than 30 minutes at a time, as when nicotine called at least twice an hour, she struggled to her feet from the over-stuffed chair, shuffled her pink-slippered feet across the industrial blue carpet, and disappeared into her apartment several doors down, only to reemerge a few minutes later having snuck a cigarette or two, still insisting upon her return that she had had to use the rest room or make a phone call.  Never mind she smelled like smoke over the tic-tac she sucked and the Avon she had sprayed post-puff.”

The magic is in the details.

I am setting myself a writing challenge this week. I am going to focus on the details of whatever stories I write. I’m going to write stories that have details, not just the rants that I seem to be known for. But, I need your help, because as much as I want to do this, I’m also afraid. So here is how you can help, if you would like. Ask me specific questions. Some of you have read me enough to know that I have had a bizarre life, but for some reason I find it trouble to write about the details of that life. I avoid the specifics, and write more about the sweeping philosophies and lessons learned. Maybe, if you ask me specific questions, I’ll be able to focus more on the details.

I know that is my next step to grow as a writer. Can you help?

In order to help me do this, I decided to create an award that I am giving to Ed and Kathy. I’m not very good at creating graphics, so forgive my lame attempt (and if someone is better at it and wants to improve the details of my design please let me know). But here is the first official The Magic is in the Details Award. Congratulations to Ed and Kathy–ignore this as you will.

 

Wearing Purple

 

Purple color

Image via Wikipedia

 

My family is wearing purple today. I haven’t noticed if anyone else is wearing purple, but I won’t be surprised if they don’t.

I have a dream of seeing the streets of someplace like New York filled with purple. Streets filled with Spirit! Streets filled with the idea that people have the right to love who they like, believe what they like, worship as they please without being bullied, abused, or tortured. Streets filled with people who recognize that every life is valuable, and would never push someone to end his/her life.

Is that a realistic dream?

I dressed in purple today because I want to believe in the possibility that human nature is not as wicked and petty as it sometimes seems. I want to believe that we can be filled with joy, love, and support for one another.

I asked my daughter to wear purple because I want her to know that it is okay to love whoever she wants to love. I also want her to learn to stand up against bullies when she sees them. She’s only seven. She doesn’t quite understand, but she heard what I said and embraced the purple.

My partner chose to wear purple for his own reasons, but I am sure they are similar to mine.

My family wore purple today because we believe in the power of spirit and the value of life.

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