Three birthday parties in three days makes for a very long, but very enjoyable weekend - even with record-tying high temps. Friday evening was devoted to a celebration in honor of our esteemablethe theatre's Artistic Director, Bret Fetzer. Saturday I facilitated a 40th Birthday Party for another good friend Susanna Wilson (officially joining the club on July 2nd), and last night had pizza and delicious cocktails to celebrate the birthday of Annex's Development Director, Jaime Roberts.
Needless to say, I'm a bit birthday'ed out, but best wishes to all.
Speaking of record temperatures, yes, summer has arrived in the Upper Left-hand - with a vengeance, and about a week early to boot. A few weeks ago, the general topic of conversation revolved around how rotten the weather had been, and when-oh-when would the warm temps arrive, because people were starting to go, well, a little funny in the head. This being Seattle, though, I'm guessing that if things continue at their current pace (although it looks like the daytime high temps are going to taper off just a bit over the next week or so), it'll be about three weeks before the same people who complained about the lack of sunshine begin complaining about the lack of cooling rainfall - it happens every year.
In other news: rehearsals for the show are going quite well, despite having to cut short our rehearsals this weekend - just couldn't compete against bad B-52s wannabes, and all-girl AC/DC cover bands (because, really, what says "Gay Pride!" MORE than an all-girl AC/DC cover band?) blasting away at us from down the street; which is just as well, because with the doors and windows closed our little theatre space resembles nothing so much as the inside of a rather largish toaster-oven.
Not that I'M complaining, mind you, just stating for the record.
Two Hundred Brands Of Cookies, 87 Kinds Of Chocolate Chip
Mid August is presenting me with quite the conundrum.
On the same weekend (August 15, 16, 17) I have invitations to three major events: A commitment ceremony on Vancouver Island; my 30-year high school reunion; and a birthday party for a good friend.
And of course each choice carries its own unique set of pluses and minuses.
For the commitment ceremony, I'd have to get my passport renewed, and travel quite a distance, which these days given the price of gas is no small matter. But they're a very nice couple, and it would probably be huge fun - and it's Canada, so what-the-hey.
I'm less enthusiastic about the reunion; I haven't really kept in contact with anyone I knew in high school, and the 25th reunion was sort of depressing only in the way that going back to your "hometown" and trying to briefly reconnect with people you not only haven't seen since graduation, but many of who are still stuck in the town you couldn't wait to leave, can be. On the other hand, it would give me a chance to get home for a brief visit with family, and wouldn't require as much travel as the commitment ceremony.
Choice number three is the toughest, because it would involve no travel whatsoever, and the birthday girl is one of my best friends.
So, I'm in a quandry. Obviously, I can only attend one of these functions, so I'm just going to have to make a choice and hope those on the losing end will understand (which, I believe, for the most part they will).
But still, it would have been nice - from a purely selfish perspective - if these could have been spread out a little bit.
First off, my deepest appreciation to all of you - near and far, friends and complete strangers - who've offered your condolences on my recent loss. I can't begin to express what a solace it's been, hearing both your kind words and stories of your own pets. Things are getting better, day by day, and much of the transition back to normality is thanks to all of you.
Oh yeah, life goes on.
Speaking of which, congratulations are in order to my friends John and Brynn who tied the knot this weekend. We hosted a pre-nuptual cabaret for them at the theatre on Friday, and then attended a beautiful ceremony-in-the-park across from their apartment on Saturday. My photos can be found here, and here, and no doubt more will be appearing in various and sundry places on-line very soon.
I'm also in the middle of assistant-directing the next production for Annex, which has also proven to be a welcome distraction these past few days.
And, to top off the positive news from the week: the show I proposed for next season, that was accepted, then scratched due to scheduling conflicts with the playwright, is now back on the season schedule (due to tremendous effort on the part of the playwright to resolve the conflicts, and thanks to a very generous Company for reconsidering the proposal), as well as announced on the web site, so I can now officially spill the beans:
October 17 - November 15 The Moon Is A Dead World (World Premiere) written by Mike Daisey, directed by Chris Comte
This first play by acclaimed monologuist Mike Daisey ("21 Dog Years", "Monopoly", "How Theater Failed America") weaves a vision of the brutal history of the Soviet space program with an unbelievable premise: a dead cosmonaut is called back down to Earth on a radio wave when Americans in a remote Arctic base hear the beating of his dying heart. A dark and hilarious fairy tale set against the Cold War, it asks what we risk in the struggle between will and humanity, and what it means to love beyond death itself.
The sharper-eyed among you will note this follows close on the heels of the current production; more specifically, interlace closes August 30th, and my first reading for "Moon" is September 1st, meaning - my summer is now officially shot.
Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but it basically boils down to not getting a break between now and the middle of October; I'm already starting the process of assembling a production team, and I'll need to hold auditions in early/mid July in order to see people before they start booking their fall productions. I've already sent a few inquiries out along both channels, and have some good people expressing interest - thankfully, Mike himself is a very good hook, and I'm going to play that for all it's worth (as he would no doubt encourage).
So, exciting times, much distraction, and plenty to do for now.
Aurora had been doing fine as of Sunday, when she spent most of the day outside in her favorite spot beneath a flowering shrub next to my upstairs neighbors' buddha statue. On Monday morning I noticed a bit of a change; she seemed a little listless, and didn't immediately get up to eat when I set food out. But, both cats have done this before, particularly when the weather starts to warm up, so I didn't think anything of it.
Tuesday morning was about the same, but by Tuesday evening when I got home there was a definite downhill slide. Still, she was ambulatory, eating, and responsive. Even so, I figured it would be a good idea to get her in to see the vet. 18 is pretty much the upper age limit for indoor-only cats, and Aurora, born and raised as a barn cat, has always been indoor/outdoor, which statistically means she'd already far exceeeded her general life-expectancy. Unfortunately, they were already closed, so I left a message asking them to call me first thing in the morning.
I got a call about 7:30 a.m., just as I was getting up, and they told me to bring her in about 11:30. When I checked on her, she was clearly going fast: she didn't respond to her name, or to physical contact, and was listless, clearly weak and dehydrated, despite having settled down right next to her water bowl.
Like a dummy I went to work about 8:15 a.m., intending to come back and take her in; by the time I got home around 11:15 she was already gone.
I'm not at all ashamed to admit, I pretty much lost it at that point.
I finally managed to call my friend Dawn, who knew her well, to let her know. Then, I called the vet, who said I could either bring her in to them, or contact Seattle Animal Control - ugh! Then, I called work and told them I wasn't coming back for the rest of the day.
Then, I lost it again for a while.
When I was able to pull myself together, I wrapped Aurora in a clean white towel and gently carried her down to "Little Nellie", carefully placed her in the trunk, and drove her to the vet, where they made a couple of notations, gave me a form to fill out, then went over the cremation arrangements. They said they'd spread her ashes under an apple tree; I sort of joked that sounded nice, and where could I sign up for that? I don't think they thought it was funny, and really it was more just an attempt to lighten the obsidian misery I was feeling.
Then, they took her away, while I signed a credit card slip.
The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. Every surface - the window ledge where she liked to sit when she couldn't go outside; her water bowl and food dish; her favorite napping spot on the blanket set on my recliner chair; the pillow where she slept next to me at night - everything seemed to contain ghostly resonances, like amputees with "phantom limb syndrome", where they can feel arms and legs that aren't there any more. Every time I'd look at some empty space, my mind kept wanting to fill it in with her small, solid presence, trying to will away the absence, make it real again.
By early evening I knew I had to get out of the apartment, try to focus my thoughts, energy, and emotions on something else. So, I put on some headphones and went out for a walk. But it was hard; despite full-volume, the music couldn't drown out the sound of my own reeling brain, and I had to stop several times as another wave of guilt, and remorse, and grief washed over me. It's still hard, writing this is hard. But, I want to remember, I don't want to forget what it felt like, even though it was mostly pain.
It wasn't her death per se that caught me off-guard; like I said, when cats reach their mid-teens you have to expect the end is going to come within a matter of a few years at most. And she'd been having some physical problems for a couple of years; a touch of arthritis, a lowering of metabolism and activity levels, etc., etc. It was the rapidity of her decline that shocked me most. There was no point in performing a necropsy, since it seemed pretty clear whatever had taken her wasn't some feline-transmittable disease. She was old, and something - kidneys would be the best guess - just stopped working all of a sudden. She didn't linger, and I don't think she was in a great deal of pain at the end, but probably more scared and confused, not understanding what was happending to her.
The one thing I regret most was not staying at her side for those final few hours. She was a good friend, a loyal companion, who trusted me to take care of her, and she deserved better than to die alone on a cold kitchen floor. That's what hurts the most, the feeling that I abandoned her when she needed me most.
I am glad, however, that she didn't die at the vet; putting her down, however humane the method for doing so, would have been unbearable. So, in the end, she relieved me of the awful, awful burdon of making that decision, and for that I am grateful.
It will get better, I know. Even now, I feel like I'm floating somewhere between 4 and 5 on the Kubler-Ross Scale, and so I just have to accept that's where I'm going to be for a while.
Jenny The Pirate, whom I've had almost as long as Aurora, and who's only six or so months younger, is still amazingly active for her advanced years; ironic, since calicoes are not generally noted for being terribly robust. But, I think she's got a good shot at outliving her elder companion (although in fairness I should note the two of them never really got along, but over the years managed to just barely tolerate each other), so there's some small consolation in that. But, I also know she's not going to be around forever, either. In a few years she's going to go down the same path, and once again I'm going to find myself sitting in an empty apartment blubbering over another empty hole that's just been scooped out of the inside of my heart.
With the exception of the ten weeks I spent in Europe in 2000, Aurora has been my constant companion for more than 18 years; longer than I've lived with any other living thing, including parents, siblings, relatives, lovers, friends, roommates. It's not something to let go of easily, and I'm not going to without a fight. They say people who've been in long relationships continue to talk to their spouse or partner long after their physical being has vanished into dust. I know there are going to be nights when I instinctively reach out in my sleep to nuzzle a phantom neck, and it's going to be a long time before I get used to those empty spaces where she used to sit, or lay, or walk being just - empty.
Until then, I hope the apples grow big and juicy. I'd dearly love to enjoy one on a bright summer's day, in the yard, next to the contented expression that graces the face of the Buddha.
Yes, yes, I know. Nine entire days without posting. Things have been - mercifully - quiet recently whilst my wounds heal.
The on-again-off-again saga of the show I proposed to the theatre is now - on. Again. After a bit of negotiating for time and schedule-juggling on the playwright's part, not to mention a very productive telephone conference last Friday, the Company has agreed to give me my original slot in the fall.
Which means, I've got a show after all.
Which also means, I have to start scaring up designers ASAP, although I have already talked to a few people in the interim, you know, just in case.
It wasn't an easy decision for some folks, understandably so. Nobody wanted to yank the slot out from under the person who'd been given it in my stead, even though they still get to produce their show (albeit as a late-night, rather than a "primetime"), and having just gone through the experience of having my own show yanked, I can completely sympathize. But in the end, enthusiasm won out over any residual guilt.
But, I still feel like I owe someone an apology for putting them through this, even inadvertantly, because I know full-well it has to be something of a disappointment - and who can blame them?
So, that little episode is put to rest.
In other news, unbelievably, I received yet ANOTHER jury summons yesterday - this time from the County Superior Court. I guess once you answer the call, everybody else considers you fair game. I mean, I've lived in Seattle/King County for coming on 28 years now, and had never ever received a jury summons - now I get two in two months?
And finally the weather has begun to approach something vaguely resembling summer-like conditions. Sunday was absolutely marvelous, felt much warmer than upper 60's, and I spent most of the day hitting farmers markets and street fairs with my friend El Vee, then had gut-busting burgers at Lunchbox Laboratory.
Soooo. Had my first experience dumping "Little Nellie" yesterday on my way home from work.
I was making a lane-change when the cab driver in front of me tapped his brakes. As a reflex response, I tapped mine as well. Unfortunately, I did so on a slick patch of wet oil, and the combination of turning, braking, and sliding was enough to zip her right out from beneath me.
The one good thing about driving a scooter, as opposed to a motorcycle, is that the design pretty much guarantees you're going to fall clear of the bike, rather than have it land on top of you. However, in the process of "falling clear" one can actually be propelled several feet in distance, meaning you build up a teensy bit more kinetic energy which will be abruptly transferred through your body come impact. I managed a pretty good "six-point landing" for the dismount (both forearms, knees and feet), but hit on my left extremities first, so almost all the damage is on that side.
I lay there for probably all of about two seconds before jumping to my feet, mainly because I had no idea if anyone was bearing down behind me. The cab driver stopped, got out to check and see if I was okay, and I managed to wrestle "Nellie" back onto her wheels and drag her over to the parking curb. Needless to say, I was in a lot of pain, augmented by a sudden infusion of adrenaline, but a quick inspection indicated no serious injuries. The cabbie offered to drive me to a hospital, but it seemed pointless. Nothing was broken, and so far as I could tell, aside from a few scrapes, nothing was bleeding, although I did land hard enough to crush the zipper on my rain jacket, punch a couple of holes in my rain pants, and scrape off some of the leather from a boot-toe and the palms of both my gloves.
Fortunately, "Nellie" herself suffered equally minor damage; just a little patch of plastic scraped off her left cowling, and a mirror loosened, so I was able to drive her home with only the difficulty of getting my very stiff left leg back up on the foot pad.
Subsequent inspection revealed a rather large "strawberry" abrasion about the size of a dollar pancake on my left knee, a slightly smaller one on my left elbow, along with a few other minor scrapes on both arms. Aside from those, and the residual stiffness in my left knee and ankle (which may be due as much to a minor muscle-pull as to impact trauma), I'm okay. Really, nothing a couple thousand milligrams of Ibuprofen can't handle.
Could have been a lot worse, of course.
I suppose it was only a matter of time. As my boss (an avid motorcycle rider) pointed out this morning: there are two types of riders; those who haven't fallen down, and those waiting to fall down again.
Remember a while back when I mentioned I would be getting a New Boss sometime around the first of July?
Well, looks like it's not going to happen after all, at least not in the foreseeable future. Old Boss will be sticking around for a while, but he (we) have a major project we have to start working on within the month, so that's going to have some impact on his scheduling. Still, as he says, he's got our regional staff over the proverbial barrel, so it's not as though they're in a position to prevent him from cutting back from union activities on his own initiative.
The good news for me though is that the new "project", really an extension of the labor-news radio project we've been working on for the past year and a-half, will net me a tidy little "raise" for the next year or so.
That is, it will, just as soon as I figure out how to get the accounting part of it all set up.
It's been a bit of a roller-coastery ride today: the memorial service for Dawn's mom was held this afternoon at Virginia Mason Medical Center, where Pat worked for much of her 30 year nursing career. Dawn handled it pretty well, all things considered, but she had a lot of support to help take some of the load off, and allow her to focus on the important things. Today was, I think, something of a catharsis for her in terms of being able to share some of the emotional turmoil she's been holding in for the past few days, but at the same time, it also gave her an opportunity to celebrate the life of someone very dear and close to her.
The one thing I realized during the course of the memorial was that Pat had many facets to her personality, and that she was highly respected by her colleagues, peers, friends and family. I didn't get to know her until several years after her retirement from a long career in nursing, and so I was impressed, although not particularly surprised, to learn that she was the first certified Nurse Practitioner in the State of Washington, and that she had helped to implement a number of programs in the Endocrinology Department at Virginia Mason, where she had also played a vital role in developing one of the world's most innovative diabetes treatment programs. It wasn't something she ever really talked about, but it was obviously an important part of her life, judging from the number of former colleagues who turned out to pay their respects.
Now of course, Dawn has to engage in the harder task at hand - moving on from her loss, and falling back into the rhythms of everyday life, albeit without the support of one of her strongest anchors by her side. It's going to take a while, but she'll be okay; she's already proven her resilliency in the face of adversity, and I think she's going to take the lessons she's learned from this experience forward with her. It doesn't mean things will be "comfortable" any time soon, far from it I expect. But, at the same time, discovering the extent to which her own inner resources can carry her must be of some comfort nonetheless.
I ducked out early from the post-proceedings to race over to the Theatre, where the company was in the midst of selecting our 2008-2009 season. It was a bit of a nail-biter for me, since I had submitted a proposal for a production that I intended to direct, but because of the scheduling conflict, I wasn't going to be present to speak on my own behalf.
It's a situation in which I rarely find myself - having to choose between supporting someone else in their time of need, versus supporting myself, and although the circumstances weren't in any way equitable (there was simply no way I wasn't going to be there for Dawn, despite the clear presence of many others also there at her side today), and there wasn't a moment's hesitation, or an inkling of regret in doing so. I simply had to trust that I had made a good case for my proposal, and also to trust that my colleagues would make a fair and judicious decision in my absence. Even so, I admit I was a bit unprepared for the hugs and cheers of congratulations that greeted my arrival at what turned out to be the tail-end of the selection process.
But now it's official: I'm going to be directing the World Premiere of "The Moon Is A Dead World", the first playscript by monologuist Mike Daisey, opening mid-October. Sounds like a ways off, sure, but it means rehearsals will begin early September, which means auditions need to be held no later than early August, which means I need to assemble a production team by, oh, say, early July - roughly a month from now; while at the same time assistant directing another production that opens mid-July.
Well, there goes MY summer.
I hadn't really had any one-on-one discussion about the project with other Company members prior to this afternoon, but I'm told by our Artistic Director that the show generated the most enthusiasm of all the projects considered, as evinced by the fact that immediately after we adjourned (roughly 15 minutes after my arrival), people started approaching me with ideas about how we might accomplish some of the not inconsiderable technical challenges, while I in turn began approaching others about coming on board in various capacities.
Needless to say, I'm excited, terrified, and frankly, a little emotionally overwhelmed at the moment, but I'm also thankful. I don't want to call it "karma", because that implies some sort of quid pro quo; I do something nice for someone, someone does something nice for me, because I don't believe that's the way the world works. It's really more a sense that I've made good choices in terms of who I support, and who I have around to support me, and I think today was a very good example of the effect those choices have on both myself and on others.