Friday, October 25, 2013

Weeks 7 & 8: Galesville, Annapolis, Baltimore, and Wasington D.C.

Since I returned from my trip home to San Francisco, we've been housesitting for Larry's friend Charlie, who lives on the West River in Galesville, Maryland. We were happy to have some down time, with no pressure to sightsee--especially at first because of the government shut down. When the shut down ended, we drove into D.C. for the day, wandering around part of the mall. The Washington Monument was covered with scaffolding. I was very moved by both the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument, especially the many quotes carved into walls behind his statue.

Then we went to the Lincoln Memorial. It was a gorgeous day and people were out in droves. Some young people were just sitting there studying next to the water, and I wondered what it might be like to be able to come to this park--grand, important, and gorgeous--whenever one felt like it. I thought of the many demonstrations and rallies that had been held here.

I don't often discuss politics as my views are incredibly radical--I'm an extreme idealist who believes in the human race and discounts the idea of countries and borders. I oppose killing--and thus war--of any kind. I've always kind of loved Martin Luther King, Jr. because he insists upon a unified concept of humanity and justness. It's not that I don't understand why we sometimes go to war, but I still believe there is always another way, a peaceful resolution available to all of us.

I remember when we walked up to the Vietnam War Memorial and how it seemed to go on and on--and how the names are under the grass, and how it's not flashy. I remember when it was built.

Vietnam War Memorial
 D.C. was never a place I dreamed about coming to. It wasn't on my bucket list. Still, I was moved by the Vietnam War Memorial. There's a directory where you can look up names and Larry found the name of a friend's father and we went and found that name among the sea of names.

Larry looking for his friend's father's name on the Memorial
We drove around downtown and found a movie theater, so we wouldn't have to fight rush hour traffic. There, we saw "Mother of George" about Nigerian immigrants in Brooklyn.

Our next outing was to Baltimore. Though the Baltimore Museum of Art is massive, it was actually pretty manageable because most of its major collection--the Matisse's--are on tour, and the museum itself is under renovation. Larry and I both enjoy Matisse and I was kind of disappointed, but there was an exhibit of his drawings of his daughter and a couple of Matisse's--including the one below, which we want to get for our wall when we return home.

With my background in conceptual and performance art, I tend to be delighted by the more contemporary works, like the dried fruit peels sewn back together pictured below. Larry tends to love earlier works and more realistic works, but we've both been coming together to find an appreciation of the other's tastes on this trip, which has broadened us both.

We then went to a diner called "Cafe Hon" where the waitresses were supposed to wear beehives and call you hon. That didn't turn out to be true, but it did have leopard-print fabric on the booths. And the food was good and Southern.

We then drove down to the Inner Harbor, in search of a park with interactive play sculptures. It took us awhile to find it and our detour took us through Little Italy and past the house where the flag that the Star-Spangled Banner was written about was sewn. It was awesome to see old houses and buildings.

We finally found the park! Here I am playing in the park, though I asked the kids if they thought the one sculpture was only for kids and they said, to my disappointment, yes. I still went on it.

Then we backtracked through town to find The Book Thing, a free bookstore where people can recycle their books or pick up new reads.  Like most of Baltimore, neighborhoods can change from upscale and hip to sketchy looking with boarded up and demolished buildings. The neighborhood right before Book Thing didn't look particularly safe, and we turned into the alley where it was and weren't sure we were going to get out of the car, until we pulled up and saw several people coming and going. There was a big warehouse full of piles of books being sorted and then rooms and rooms of shelves and shelves of books. We spent a good hour there looking through the stores and choosing our selections, leaving happy.

Our next sightseeing venture was back in D.C. We took the Metro down to the Smithsonian. I had no idea that the Smithsonian was really 19 museums. We chose the American History Museum, which was three floors and a full day's tour. I loved seeing the popular culture room--with early typewriters, Dorothy's ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore, and the original Kermit the Frog puppet. We both loved the African American history wing, with one side devoted to the Civil War and the other devoted to the Civil Rights movement. Then there was transportation, the history of electricity, American history, coins, and much more--including a collection of lunch pails and the shoes of Celia Cruz, Cuban-born pop star. It was a filling and great day.

Detail from the Golden Books Collection, one of my favorite exhibits at the Smithsonian

Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian--awesome! 


We spent a lot of time just hanging out in the house in Galesville, resting, reading, me working on writing projects--and  sometimes going into Annapolis for lunch.

One night, we had a treat--Charlie arranged for us to use somebody's tickets to a music event in downtown Annapolis, so we got dressed up and went to dinner and a show. Paul Thorn is a favorite of Larry's and it was a great happenstance he was playing in town that night. I loved the opening act, a Baltimore band fronted by a guy named Cris Jacobs with a upright bassist who played like there was no tomorrow. Paul Thorn was hilarious and he and the band performed non stop for an hour and a half to a super grateful crowd. And we were grateful for the chance to be there.

The next day we did another trip into D.C. I wanted to see the Folger Shakespeare Library which had an exhibit about different stagings of Shakespeare through the centuries. It was super illuminating. I grew up on Shakespeare, going to see plays at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego when I was a kid and studying acting there. I played Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream in high school and then Titania two summers ago in Merced. It was great to get new insights on Shakespeare and the many interpretations of his work over the years.

We were right down from the Capitol, so we decided to go inside and take a tour. The tour took us under the dome and in the crypt, which was where George Washington was supposed to be buried but he'd wanted to be buried at home, so it was empty. There are statues of different statesmen and women representing the different states, along with a statue of women suffragettes, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. We went in the original room where Congressional hearings were held which was pretty cool especially as we had just watched the movie "Lincoln" which mostly takes place in that room.

Congress wasn't in session. Really? They've been off for over two weeks and are taking another break? But we could've gotten a pass to go into the rooms where they are in session and seen where all that law-making and war-making takes place.

After lunch we went into the Library of Congress, a glorious place with a grand reading room that you can view and Thomas Jefferson's Library on display on a spiral of bookcases. He had thousands of volumes of books and many of the originals are there. Some are replacements or just boxes with the titles on them.

Reading Room, Library of Congress
Then, I was off to meet my friend Louis and his daughter Freya for dinner. Charlie had just gotten home from a trip to San Francisco, so Larry went home to meet him and watch the World Series. Louis, Freya and I checked out a gelato place that Louis is thinking about investing in: and I tasted more gelato than I'd thought possible to consume. Then five-year-old Freya really wanted me to have whole wheat fettucini, bought fresh from Whole Foods, so we went back to their place to make dinner, visit with Louis' wife Sonya, and put Freya to bed. It was great to see Louis again and to meet his lovely daughter.

Friday we just hung out in Galesville, getting ready to head out the next morning. . .for more adventures. . .

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Week 6, part 2: Dawn goes home for the weekend

Last Thursday, Larry dropped me off at Penn Station and I took a train from there to the Newark airport. Time is different while traveling; each day feels like a week and that now seems like ages ago. I'd bought a ticket back home to San Francisco, for my good friend Madeline's wedding.

Since I was going home, I scheduled a video shoot with foolish tree films and the amazing Ian Carruthers, who'd responded enthusiastically to an ad I placed for a video editor some time back. I liked his work, his energy, his background in performance, and his interest in Sweetie Pie--he'd offered lots of help and feedback on our test videos we'd done back in San Francisco and on the road. Super encouraging, he had a keen eye for detail. I also knew he had the ability to direct me and help me bring out the performance I was looking for, something I sorely need to take Sweetie Pie to the next level. A friend's young daughter would be my co-star/co-scientist/student for the shoot, and with a script I'd written way too close to shoot date, revisions continually being made by both Ian and me, I was on the plane memorizing lines.

My mom and her husband were out of town, so I had a whole San Francisco house to myself for the first three nights, which was good because I needed a lot of space to mentally and practically prepare for the shoot. Arriving late Thursday night, I spent all day Friday getting the kitchen at my mom's house ready for the shoot and running errands for props and things. My co-star and I rehearsed Friday night and then because of the way I booked my rental car, I had to go back to the airport at 11 PM and close out one contract and get a new car. This all resulted in me not having as much sleep as I would've liked before what was to be a long work day. I got up, had a last meeting with Ian and my co-star's mother, then I took care of getting my head on straight by a good hour of prayer and meditation. A quick lunch and when I got home, Ian arrived to set up. We started at 2 and worked straight through until almost 8 PM.

At the start, I had this overwhelming sense that this was the stupidest thing to put myself through. I was nervous and thought this isn't worth how I feel. But after about 15 minutes, I felt the way I've always felt on stage or behind a camera, like it's the place I feel most at home. And though I was tired, by the time we finished, I was already wishing we were getting up tomorrow to do it all again. I could live this way. I was cooking up plans for the next video, my next trip home. Ian went above and beyond my expectations of him. I'd hired him to videotape and edit and he took on full producer and director duties as well; he really took a vested interest in the project. And my young co-star was brilliant!

The next day, I had a chance to see some of the friends I often had coffee with early mornings, and I felt so welcomed home. Of course, time for them wasn't moving the same way it was for me, so they said, "It seems like only yesterday we said goodbye," though I'd felt a lifetime had passed since I'd seen them.

The weather was beautiful in San Francisco and Larry's daughter, Allison, came down to the beach where my mother lives. She brought our dog who she's taking care of and our mail and we went for a lovely walk on the beach. We couldn't do this trip without Allison's help and she'd seemed only too happy to add our dog Rosie to her doggie day care and her weekend walks. It was wonderful to see her and I look forward to more time with her when we return to San Francisco.

A couple of errands, a fifteen minute nap, and I was getting dressed for Madeline and Dubi's wedding in Sausalito. They couldn't have ordered better weather. Their wedding and reception took place at Ondine event center right on the water in Sausalito, with a beautiful view of the City. I knew no one at the wedding except the couple and Madeline's parents, but the other guests were incredibly friendly and I left with more friends than I'd arrived with.

The ceremony was beautiful, a Jewish ceremony where every guest got to say a blessing and then seven of us read traditional blessings. I felt honored to be there and even more honored to be able to read one of the blessings. The blessing I read was: "May the journey you travel together be filled with honesty, respect, understanding and trust of each other's individual personality and philosophy, as you work together to build a relationship of substance and quality." She gave me the journey blessing because I'm on this journey. I love these words and take them to heart.

I'd met Madeline in poetry class at UC Santa Cruz in 1988. We soon became housemates and shared a lot of our young creative efforts, tears over romances, and plenty of our growing pains through our early twenties. I'd moved to Berkeley when I was 25 and she was a grad student at Mills College. She'd invited me to stay in her studio apartment with her as long as I needed. We were as close as two friends could be. After she moved away, to Minnesota and then to New York City, we slowly lost touch, and I always felt sad about that. Finally, I was able to find her some years ago through Facebook, and we met up. She was living in Los Angeles and I visiting. It felt like no time had passed. Madeline has this amazing graciousness that has always given me the feeling that I am part of her inner circle, and I was so glad at the wedding to feel that way again and to meet the others she'd graced her life with. I am so happy for her. She'd waited until this day to be married and she was glowing with joy.

Since she and Dubi love creative efforts--Madeline is a poet and screenwriter--they decided to hire a poet to write poems to order at the reception. I connected her with my UC Merced colleague Anne Walker, who I'd been in a generative writing workshop with and who I knew could write amazing poems quickly. The funny thing was, Anne and Madeline had been in grad school for poetry at Mills together, back when I lived with Madeline, but hadn't stayed in touch, so it was a nice coming together of lives. It was great to have Anne there. After Anne left, Dubi asked me if I'd be willing to help out by writing a few poems for guests who didn't get to have poems written. What a joy and a pleasure. I got to write poems about couple's courtships, including Madeline's aunt and uncle, who had married 56 years prior. I wrote a poem about the Dodgers and a poem for Madeline's dad about his daughter getting married--which he deemed the biggest of all her many successes. I love writing poems to order, have done it before. I loved writing on an old typewriter, and letting go of ownership of the poems. Larry and I had an idea that on this trip, I could get a manual typewriter and set it up on street corners and write poems as gifts to passersby. We didn't pursue that effort. But I could also be happy writing poems to order all day every day, as much as I could be happy behind the camera or on stage. Behind my work, I am home. I was so happy to be able to celebrate my friends' union.

My mom and her husband came home that night, Sunday, and I got to visit with them in the morning. Then I had lunch with Shella, our former housemate, meet her newest foster kitties, and have lunch. I got to do all these things with friends, thinking, why didn't I do this more often when I was in San Francisco. Mostly, I got to really feel that San Francisco was home, welcoming me back with open arms. This feeling helps root me as I'm on this trip, far from home.

I had dinner with my mom in West Portal and then perused a bookstore with her. Then it was early to bed with me, as I had to be up at 4 AM to get to the airport for a long day of travel. . . .I would land in Baltimore the next night and Larry and I would be housesitting at our friend Charlie's house for a week near Annapolis. We would feel no pressure to sightsee, as the government was still shut down when I returned, so we got to have a few days of normal routine--much needed, before we got back into our sightseeing mode.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Week 6: New York (Astoria, Queens)

I’m writing this blog post from an airplane. I flew out of Newark, New Jersey and am heading back to San Francisco for a long weekend. One of my closest friends, Madeline, a former college roommate, is getting married. I’m also working with a professional videographer and editor to make a short webisode of Sweetie Pie this weekend. A pretty jam packed few days are ahead of me—and this after five nights in New York City, my favorite city of all.

Upper West Side
I’ve been to New York several times, but Larry had never been. Because it’s so expensive to stay in Manhattan, we found a really cheap—and what turned out to be pretty nice for the price—room in an Airbnb walk up in Astoria, Queens. Our place was less than fifteen minutes by foot to the R and M Subway lines, and about a twenty minute ride into Manhattan.

Larry drove us valiantly over the George Washington and Triboro bridges into Queens, dodging traffic, me helping navigate directions, etc. I was less afraid than I have been, but also grateful we were having five days on public transit so I could have a break from possible bouts with panic.

Times Square
We arrived around seven in the evening, found a cheap but delicious neighborhood Greek place for dinner and then decided to head over to Times Square. I  felt like walking through Times Square at night would be a good first glimpse of New York for Larry. I remember the first time I went to New York, and I felt like I was in a movie because the cityscape was that of so many of my beloved films. Larry had the same experience, joking as he saw the street full of cabs near 42nd and Broadway, “This isn’t real—they must be making a movie or something.”

First night in Manhattan
We stayed out a bit too late, but Larry woke up early, excited to see more of the City. We took the subway to Rockefeller Center, then walked up Fifth Avenue, through Central Park and up to the Natural History Museum, poring over the exhibits of African and Prehistoric Animals. 
Rockefeller Center
After a late lunch on Columbus Street, we headed back to Queens, so I could meet my lovely friend Margaret, a dancer and dance-maker and mother of a wonderful toddler. When I was dancing and making performance art pieces in 1998-2001 in San Diego, we took dance classes together, and danced together in a monthly performance series I curated and hosted at a venue I ran downtown, All Made Up. Margaret choreographed for my first full length performance art piece, and we spent some time talking about the trials of romance. We’re happy to be able to both be on the other side of those trials, with loving, solid men. I was delighted to sit in a Starbucks and visit with her and her three year-old daughter, Nona, while a storm blew threw Queens. Nona sang me a goodbye song, and Margaret and I said our goodbyes, hoping to see each other soon. New York City—for me—is so much about reconnecting with those who have creatively inspired me over the years, as several former colleagues and creative collaborators now live there. I felt full and inspired.

Margaret and Nona
New York also means a lot of walking—and we walked and walked—from the Starbucks back towards our place in Astoria, stopping for salads on Steinway, and voting for an early evening, making plans for the next day.

Back in the Airbnb, we researched what Broadway show we’d see and settled on “Once” which is based on a film we both love with a theme song that meant a lot to us during our courtship.

Freedom Tower
Early the next day, we headed down to the TKTS booth in South Seaport, got a glimpse of the Freedom Tower, the building that now stands in the place of the Twin Towers. We felt like prizewinners when we scored orchestra seats at half off for the show and decided to walk up through the neighborhoods to the Village, to have lunch at what I was told by a person in the know is the best in New York, John’s Pizzeria. We passed through TriBeCa and SoHo—and ate lunch, then into the West Village for dessert at Magnolia Bakery. With me being just back on sugar after several months off, the sugar high had me reeling. . .

We noticed some people taking photos of a brownstone on Perry Street that was cordoned off, and I looked it up on my phone to see what the fuss was all about—turned out to be Carrie’s stoop from “Sex In the City” which made us laugh.

Subway Station

Then we caught the subway at Christopher Street and headed up to Riverside Park, walking around near Columbia University and enjoying a glorious sunny day before heading back to 42nd Street and for dinner at a bar so Larry could catch some of the A’s/Tigers game before we crossed over to the Jacobs Theater for a magical performance of “Once,” which was true to the movie and so much more than the movie.

475 Riverside Drive
When we walked into the theater, before the show started, the stage was filled with people singing, playing instruments, and dancing and it turned out that they were selling refreshments on the set, which was set up in a bar (a place that doesn’t appear in the movie) and more than half the people singing and dancing were actually audience members!! One of the actors is someone I’d met when volunteering in electrics at the La Jolla Playhouse 30 years ago, just after I graduated high school. He’d played Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet back then and now was playing the guy’s dad in “Once” and playing a mean mandolin (which is my favorite instrument). It was awesome to remember David Patrick Kelly’s kindness to me back then and to see him on stage and to read that he’d continued to have a vital, growing successful career.

We stayed out for a little while longer and then head back, staying up way too late because we were so excited and full from the day.

The next day it was cooler and overcast. We took the Staten Island Ferry, enjoying the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan and Jersey City skylines, and the boat ride in general. We love boats!

Manhattan from Staten Island Ferry
 We had some time before I was to meet a couple of friends from grad school, so we walked around Battery Park, which is under renovation. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island were closed because of the government shutdown. We then walked back up toward Wall Street, watching people swarming around the big bull statue, going into Trinity Church and listening to a string quartet rehearse, and wandering around the beautiful cemetery on the grounds of the church.

Trinity Cemetery
We needed to rest, so we arrived at the café where I was to meet my friends early, and talked through a decision to have me leave for San Francisco a day early, so I could be better prepared for the Sweetie Pie shoot I’m doing this weekend. So I dealt with those arrangements before my friends arrived, and Larry ducked out so I could have some girl time with Genevieve and Kitt, both former colleagues from grad school at the University of California, Irvine, where we were all MFA creative writing students. It was an awesome, inspiring conversation—and I left feeling more excited about Sweetie Pie and about the memoir project I plan to work on this winter when I’m holed up in Wisconsin. We all parted with the promise to see each other when I came back at the end of the month, and it was a good, rejuvenating creative jolt for me.

Trinity Church
Larry and I didn’t know what to do—we were tired, but it was my last night in New York (for now), so we decided to go to a movie at an art house on the Lower East Side and follow it with a visit to Katz’s. When we got off the subway, I was sure I saw John Turturro getting on, but I was so starstruck, I couldn’t say anything to Larry until the subway was gone.

The movie was “In a World. . .” which is a delightful comedy about a woman in the voiceover business in Los Angeles. It’s really a great movie about love, family dynamics, female empowerment, as well as the voiceover business. We loved it. Katz’s deli was a great New York experience. As we walked home, we discussed the restrained food plan we’d be ready to go on when we spend two weeks housesitting in Annapolis. We both love food a little too much, if you haven’t noticed! My alter-ego is Sweetie Pie. We’ll let you know how the new plan goes when I get back from the wedding.

We went home, slept well, and Larry took me by subway to Penn Station and put me on a train to the Newark Airport. We felt sad about separating, but each have good plans for the next few days, and will see each other soon.

New York in Legos at Lego Store, Rockefeller Center
Larry trying to blend in with the locals

Larry hung out in the Times Square area after I left, going to see “Gravity” in 3D and then hanging out until he could go to the bar where a group of New York City A’s fans will be tonight, rooting them on to the next round of the playoffs. He heads back to Annapolis tomorrow, for another couple days with his friend Charlie, and then we begin a housesit for Charlie when he leaves this weekend.

Thanks to all for following our adventures. We really appreciate your interest—it helps me keep writing this, and I’m sure I’ll be glad to have this record down the road. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week 5, Part 2: Annapolis, Washington D.C. & New Jersey

So, at this point, we've either visited or passed through 17 states, Canada, and the District of Columbia. Whew. I'm writing this from our room in the neighborhood of Astoria in Queens, New York, a short subway ride from Manhattan. We arrived here after three restful nights with Larry's good friend Charlie, who has just recently moved from San Francisco to the Annapolis area of Maryland, to be near his daughter and grand daughter. By the time we parked in front of Charlie's house in Galesville, MD--a town of about 600 on the West River near Chesapeake Bay, I was altogether road-weary and was grateful to be able to have some downtime, which was made easier by the fact the government has shut down and the museums are not open in our nation's Capital. We also know we'll be going back to Galesville to housesit for a couple of weeks after we're in New York City, so we'll have plenty of time to explore--with the hopes that by then there will be a resolution to the differences that caused the shutdown. 

We didn't know Charlie lived, essentially, on the water, so it was really wonderful following the GPS directions and ending up turning down a long street into Galesville and ending up at the edge of the water, seeing boats docked on the pier. 

As I wrote in the previous blog, I'd opted for a night in, for rest, and to not yet brave driving alone, though I was pretty bummed about missing seeing my friend Louis and getting to meet his five-year-old daughter. I hadn't seen Louis since his wife was pregnant with their daughter. But I stayed in, wrote the blog, and wrote a fun poem for Freya, which I hastily sent to Louis so I could somehow be present for them that night. 

The next day, we went in to Annapolis, walked around old-town, went to Chick & Ruth's Delly (famous for its crabcakes and six-pound milkshakes). When we came back, I took a giant nap, and then we had a dinner at a local place. 

Saturday, we went into D.C. to see my friend Louis play with his band, Brûlée (, at Porchfest, an event in the Adams Morgan neighborhood where 33 bands played on 11 stages. We took the Metro into D.C., walking our way to the street where Brûlée was playing their jazz-infused music. It was a great event. The weather had been hot and humid, but the street was tree-lined, the people whose porch Brûlée was playing on kept the cold water and homemade cookies coming, and the four-piece band played, alternating every few songs with a band down the street, so we heard two bands and I got to visit with Louis between these tiny sets. 

Then Louis and I visited and watched the French Admirals play covers of bands like the Smiths as well as some originals. The French Admirals were equally and different in their awesomeness. They were a guitarist/singer and bass player and didn't bring a PA system so their singer was belting out the songs, making for a very intimate performance experience, while they alternated with an awesome band down the block. 

Louis and I got to catch up for about an hour while we listened to the music, and Larry and Charlie walked around listening to some other great bands. It was an awesome way to get an insider's view on the city. Loved it, the execution, and the concept--and hope that the idea will spread to a lot more cities and towns. 

We had an early night (with Charlie and Larry watching baseball playoffs while I rested), and then headed off to drive to New York City, with a stop planned to visit my dad's cousin, Allen, in Frenchtown, New Jersey. We winded our way through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, before passing into New Jersey. Rural New Jersey is beautiful, and the fall colors were starting to come on. In Pennsylvania, Annapolis, and New Jersey we started to see older buildings. Larry kept saying, "I bet that building is 300 years old." 

The drive to Frenchtown was absolutely gorgeous. We crossed over the Delaware River on a small bridge and into enchanting rolling hills, winding our way through Western New Jersey, finally landing at Allen's house for invigorating conversation, a great dose of family history, and a good chance to get to know someone I hadn't seen since I was eight (in 1974). It was a wonderful stopover and we hope to have the chance to see him again later this month. 

Then, by 4:30, we were off to try to get into New York and our room before it was too awfully late. Though we had some Sunday night traffic (or normal New York traffic) to battle, we happily landed in New York City on Sunday night via the George Washington Bridge, my first trip over it.