Showing posts from August, 2009

Your Mama Plays with Roaches

Yesterday, on two separate occasions and while holding a three-inch cockroach, I was called a "good mother." Seems I'm to be admired for providing such pets for my children. And, it must be added, to be feared for losing one of them. Let it be known that our missing hissing giant Madagascar cockroach will not breed with any American friends she may meet in our garage, nor will the roommates she left behind spread "disease juice," as a woman suggested yesterday before leaving her young son in my care. They're just insects, okay? And they're cool. This got me thinking about my history with odd creatures. Growing up I had a poodle for a pet--dear, departed Snowball--and the occasional gerbil and rabbit. But once I was a full-fledged adult I put myself in the vicinity of some slightly more interesting non-humans. In Tallahassee, where alligator roadkill was commonplace, I signed up for Reptile Handling, a prerequisite for those who wished to give presentatio

Unless You Was Me, How Could You Judge Me?

unless you was me, how could you judge me? -rapper Jay-Z in "Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)" I had been listening to Jay-Z on my way to the women's shelter yesterday in an attempt to pump myself up for what would surely be another rough evening. Last week, my first time with the women, they put me through the ringer; though I appeared to have passed their test, I couldn't begin to predict what this second day would bring. Try as I might, and even though I had just lifted a bunch of really heavy stuff a bunch of times at the YMCA, I couldn't find my usual bring-it-on attitude. I was more like a doomed and doleful junior high boy caught in an alley: I know you're going to beat the crap out of me, so just get it over with. But then I walk in there and it's all Hi, Amy and When are we going to start? Shellie, the director, said it again: "They just had to check you out." I sat down for awhile with some of the women and did what women do: compared the s

Will Act For Food

Carol, Degage's administrative assistant, says that homeless people need to see you're going to keep showing up before they trust you. "Lots of people haven't been there for them in the past." No one wanted to join in my theatre games yesterday morning at the shelter. Before I left I stopped by Jesse and Ricardo's table, where they were eating pancakes--had they not been, they told me, they'd have joined me again this week. Jesse, as I mentioned before, is young and somewhat sly; Ricardo is older, gentle, warm as the deep brown of his eyes and braids. He was born in Puerto Rico and he eats breakfast at a homeless shelter; that's all I know for sure. How much can you really get to know people in a transient population? A staff worker at Degage said that on the day of her interview a fistfight broke out in the dining room and she went right home and cried, vowing to never take the job. I can guess at what helped her change her mind, but on the ot

What Would Michael Jackson Do?

Is it possible that I've managed to mention Michael Jackson three times in a blog that's just one month old? What will Michael Jackson do? No, not that one--the one who showed up last week for my theatre games at a homeless shelter. It's a woman who's got the moves down, and who would periodically gyrate suggestively throughout the course of the evening, most often during games in which the other participants--me included--needed to mimic her. She was funny and fun, but of the kind that brings about nervous laughter. Like, she added some spice, but I had my heart set on broth and noodles. As another woman from the shelter had told me, when hearing that we'd be doing acting exercises, "You don't want these women expressing themselves." I don't totally agree, but at the same time I understand that I'm not a therapist, and that estimates say 70% of the people at the shelter have a mental illness. I have to figure out how to do what I do without br

Physical Therapy and My Right Shoulder

The diagnosis: tendonitis in the long head bicep tendon; tearing in the anterior deltoid; tightening in the right pectoral. Heading to the gym tonight anyway. So there.

Morning and Evening of the Fourth Day, Part 2

Degage at night is a different place. Only the women's shelter is open, and all the homeless men who would be inside during the day are out on the sidewalks. Loud arguments are going on. There's singing. People I talked with in the morning are drunk or high this time of night. Last week I met with Shellie, the director of The Open Door, and talked with the women who stay there about doing theatre games at night. When do we start? they asked. After having had trouble convincing folks in the morning to join me during my sessions, this enthusiasm was welcomed. I eagerly planned out which games I'd do with these women. Monday night is "meeting." Sometimes there's a speaker; this week, there was me. No one can take showers during meeting. They can't mess around in their lockers. They don't have to participate, but they can't do anything else; in other words, they're not allowed to go to bed until I finish. It's understandable, then, that these

Morning and Evening of the Fourth Day, Part 1

Something about dropping lots of weight down onto your ribcage makes you think you can handle anything that comes your way. There are days when you lift your top weight with no problem. There are days when it hovers down over your chest and someone needs to rescue you. And then there are days when you get it to somewhere in between, you call on your sleeping back muscles, you push with your quads, you growl, you spit, and, well, there's nothing more you can do. Last night at Degage, the homeless shelter where I've been teaching theatre, I drew on all my resources but got the bar only halfway up. First, let me tell you about the morning. Last week only Sarah had shown up; and again this week, she made a specific effort to come, even riding her bike because she was out of bus passes. Two other women and three men joined--none of them repeats from the previous three weeks--and things went well. The room was stuffy but the people agreeable, and I led them in a mix of both standard


...there's a cockroach missing.

Day 3

Day 3 at Degage, the homeless shelter where I've started teaching a weekly theatre class. Day 1: 2 participants. Day 2: 6 participants. Day 3: 1. When there's decent weather, folks mill about on the corner outside the building. I saw Don there on my way in and asked if he'd join me again this week. "10:30?" "Yep." "Alright." Inside I saw DeShonte, also a participant last week. "You coming?" "I'm too lazy." "You had fun last week!" "I did, I did, but it takes energy. I'm lazy. I'm hyper, too, but I run around here all day and let off steam." Josh, how about you? "No thanks." Don? Where'd he go? All these guys had a great time last week. Sometimes, though, its hard to force yourself to do what you know is a good thing if it takes a little work. Good thing this blog is about both theatre and exercise, because there are some parallels here. A few new people expressed interest, forcin

3-Pound Weights and My Right Shoulder

I was doing some rehabilitative shoulder exercises with little tiny weights today when BAM! My muscles stood at attention, making me want to throw on a strapless gown and run into the rain. But because I don't actually own such attire, and even though it was indeed raining, I just took a picture. What's a weightlifting blog without muscle shots, right? Indulgent as they may be. Slow, high reps with lighter weights tend to produce maximum visual appeal. Usually I'm aiming for power, so I'm doing fast, low reps with heavier weights. I still get muscle, of course--it didn't all just show up today--but not always with such quick, obvious results. This is how bodybuilders do their thing, I guess; they pinpoint some little obscure muscle that's being shy and coax it into making an appearance, temporary as that appearance may be (even as I write, my "pump" is fading). So forget all that worrying about greed in my last weightlifting post; I'm liking what t

When The Paint Color Looks Nothing Like The Color In The Little Sample Square...

...but you like it a lot. Here's our freshly-painted house. I realized after seeing the door and trim in the flesh that my inspiration had come from one of Simon's LEGO Creations. Also that it looks a lot like our grocery store's sign. Oh well--it's still awesome.

Tolstoy and My Right Shoulder

In " How Much Land Does A Man Need? ," a short story by Leo Tolstoy, the peasant Pahom comes upon the opportunity to buy some land. He's relieved to be out from under the heavy hand of a landowner who frequently imposed fines when, say, a cow would stray into her oats. His first harvest is good; Pahom is happy. His is special land. In time, neighboring peasants and their cattle begin to trespass on his land, and Pahom tries to deal with this civilly, but to no avail. He fines the offenders, who begrudge his this and sometimes purposefully send some cows his way. More tension ensues, and Pahom becomes disgruntled. He's thinking a little more land would solve his troubles. He spends three years renting some extra land to sow wheat, saving up some money, and finally is about to cinch a deal to purchase quite a bit more land--1300 acres--for a cheap price (1500 roubles). Just then, he meets up with a man who tells him about an amazing deal that is to be had far away, in t

Day 2

Day 2 at Degage. Day 2 of anything is tough. Day 1 has to its advantage an element of the unknown, which can bring energy and life to the thing. Day 2 you kind of know what's coming, and you start to entertain the little voices in your head saying, Really now: You think you're cut out for this? But if I've learned anything from benchpressing, it's that you just have to show up and hope for the best. Nothing good--or bad--will happen if you don't. You've done your homework, and now all that's left is to show up for the test. Last week, two women joined me for what we're calling "theatre games'; we had trouble convincing anyone else. I planned today's meeting with those women in mind, all the while knowing but not really thinking about the fact that nothing's for sure in a homeless shelter from week to week. So when six men joined me today, I had a moment of Uh Oh. I started thinking that maybe large grown homeless men might look at me fun

How To Tell Them Apart

Dora is the explorer, Chubby likes her food, and Lipstick just wants some beauty rest. Which should make it perfectly clear which gals Theo is holding. Right?

Meet Dora, Lipstick and Chubby

Theo got one hissing cockroach on his 4th birthday. Today we bought three for birthday #6.