Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Go Fish

We took a return trip to Birmingham last weekend, and I ate at The Fish Market for the first time. I lived in The 'Ham how long, and never ate at The Fish Market? We got there pretty late, and the Friday night crowd was pleasing: mellow and integrated. I liked the food (been a long time since I've had scallops) and disliked the music (Kenny G whuuuuut). But the decor was what resonated. The open spaciousness and the lighting reminded me of the cafes that were fixtures in the corny computer adventure games I used to favor. I regard it as a sign of maturation that I now hang out in atmospheric venues instead of hanging out in virtual atmospheric venues.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Every Room Has A Flaw

I'll be an inmate in Cast Theatre's forthcoming production of Marat/Sade. I'm relieved I won't have to hold down a major singing part again, somewhat bummed that accepting this community theatre role means turning down some paying (but less interesting) opportunities.

In more long-term news, Laurie and I are getting closer to marriage; we haven't set a date yet, but we do have a deadline, sort of... we want to be married by the holidays of this year.

And I'm actually making some headway on a novel! Yeah, me and a billion other people. Mine's a juvenile fantasy, because that's all I read growing up, and they say you should write what you know. All I know is anthropomorphic critters and adolescent parapsychologists.

***

Speaking of which, I never got into The Hardy Boys. I tried a few times, since every other boy in school read them, but I couldn't relate to the Boys; they were too Jack Armstrong, All-American for me to grok. Heaven forbid my young self read a novel if my young self couldn't relate to the protagonist. The Three Investigators were my guys; nerds one and all, highly skilled in some areas and worthless in all other areas. That I could grok, by cracky. And after they cracked the case they'd go have lunch with their buddy Alfred Hitchcock and tell him all about it, and say "But there's one detail that still puzzles me; how did the Gypsy snort the cobras out his nose?" and Hitchcock would figure it out.

This post's title is IIRC an actual line from one of those books. I found it an intriguing notion back when most of my reading material was certain to involve someone getting locked in a room at some point.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

La La La

I'm currently up for a singing role in a local show. It's non-paying but locally prestigious, artistically ambitious community theatre.

I'm in the perplexing position of being half-good at something. I can sing... kinda. In my audition I sang the obscure Cole Porter song "They Couldn't Compare To You" which is a hilarious crowd pleaser, and one of maybe a half-dozen songs I feel comfortable singing anytime, anywhere. The director obviously enjoyed it, so tonight I'm called back for a big singing part in a show that isn't exactly a musical, but has some key songs.

The problem is that learning new music, learning it precisely, and actually, y'know, singing it is difficult for me; nonetheless my last paying gig and perhaps my next non-paying gig involve singing. I can sing just well enough to be an impressive audition if it's a cappella (for me matching an accompanist with whom I haven't rehearsed is like guessing an unseen person's weight) but carrying a full singing performance isn't really in my comfort zone.

It's an interesting demonstration of the truism that a good date isn't always a good mate, and vice versa.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Graves and The Golden

Passed a favorite graveyard today (it has family crypts like mini-temples amidst the headstones; very horror movie-riffic) and like most graveyards in town it's actually a churchyard. Anyway, someone had knocked over and broken some of the headstones. In a city I would just write such events off as inevitable urban vandalism, but in a small country town I grasp for specific socio-economic explanations of such activity, just as I assume aggressive driving in a small town is connected to economic frustration, but in the city it's just inevitable that dense populations mean more jerks. Only today does it occur to me that I'm applying different expectations to different environments. It's irksome that some stupid person besmirched some grave markers, but it's fun to imagine the aggrieved dead rising to haunt our anonymous defiler.

* * *

Reading The Golden by Lucius Shepard; it's a political thriller set in a Gormenghastly vampire palace. The vampire stuff is used as metaphor and MSG. Shepard's short stories are more subtle, but he lets the Gothiness of it all justify some extravagant excess; then he finds the nuanced shadings within the excess. Ken Russell should make the movie.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Freaky Actors

I just saw a documentary about Tod Browning, the director of such films as Dracula and Freaks. He worked with Lon Chaney a bunch, and wanted to do Dracula with him; no doubt Chaney would have created one of his famous makeup schemes as part of the character. He died too soon, though, and Bela Lugosi got the job. Lugosi refused to wear makeup and relied on his distinctive personality to create the character.

I found this more inspiring than I can probably convey. Two beloved performers who handled similar creative tasks in ways that suited their individual styles and talents. It gives me hope as an actor; I tend to fall into the trap of thinking there's some answers-in-the-back-of-the-teacher's-edition correct way to do things, and that I don't measure up, but in creative work there's many, many routes to success. Now to persuade North Carolina's casting directors.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Kannapolis to Austin

Laurie and I went traveling last week. Here's a few highlights:

Visiting two delightful Austin swimmin' holes, Deep Eddy and Barton Springs. It turns out that what I didn't like about swimming was clorine.

Spending time with Laurie's sister, a hilarious nurse who filled us in on the funny and dark sides of her profession. A sample: nurses call motorcycles "Donorcycles." Also, she wants her funeral music to include "Ghostbusters". That just gets funnier the more I think of it.

My return to Birmingham, Alabama, where I reconnected with some old friends, finally ate some V. Richards bread (A staple of my B'ham days which I've been pining for ever since leaving) and discovered a groovy bar, the Red Lion Lounge, a year too late to hang there regularly. Red Lion is a good quiet bar for sitting outside with a cluster of chums, or going inside to watch a fourtysomething guy in a suit chat up a goth Gen X'er ("See, I'm the last of a dying breed...")

(sidenote: there was an apartment complex near my old digs which was full of Latin American folks. Every weekend you could walk by and hear guys speaking spanish and playing Reggaetone as they worked on their custom-painted trucks. Then, one weekend, they were GONE. All of them. The building became an exhibit on the theme of broken windows and enigmatic grafitti; I was tempted to explore it but was afraid of antsy squatters. Now the building is also GONE, replaced by a tan grassy hillside.)

Driving through small towns in Texas. My notions about modern Texas have been shaped by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, Joe Bob Briggs, and the novel Stinger by B'ham native Robert McCammon, in which aliens invade a dying Texas town. I'm happy to report that Texas lived up to my pulpy hopes... rusty trailers, shirtless country folk with sun-browned muscles, odd jury-rigged diners...

Seeing Professor Cox again. He's about to spend a year in China on a Fulbright grant, which is more that I can say, so it was our last chance to catch him.

Another interesting and mysterious sighting: a dilapidated, closed rest stop in Louisiana. I believe it's one I stopped at back in the Nineties: it stank from the moment we got out of the car, and was full of bums demanding money. The march of the moaning bums was reminiscent of a George Romero movie. Now Louisiana's rest stop is clean and bum-free. Except when I show up.