I emerge from my blogging silence in a hotel room in Tulsa, OK where the short version of the story is I had a helluva week. The long version of this week is reserved for a shrink’s couch or tell-all autobiography. But in short, I’m no longer the nauseous home-buying mess that I was in LA. I’m feeling much better. I’m ready to face the world again when I close escrow in mid-March and enter life as a mortgage paying slave.
That is, if I can ever get home. I’m on the road for another week so I can pay for said new home. I head to New York tomorrow where my friend Ann, who was a recently eliminated contestant on a VH1 dating show is having me out to her school to do a lecture and performance! I know people in high places!
Contrary to popular belief, I did not “get killed” here in the Bible Belt. It is my first time in Oklahoma and I was so happy to be welcomed with these big banners downtown where my receding gums were on the display for the whole city to see!
Oklahoma is not a bunch of people in overalls and no shoes standing in fields with guns! They are people who love theater!
I did a public egomaniac dance in the street.
I took this picture of me on the festival posters on “Cherry Street” and a woman inside this studio ran out into the street after me screaming, “Are you the girl on the poster?”
The shows went so well. Some people asked me before I left, “Are there enough Asian women in Tulsa to come to your show?” And my response was, “I don’t need an audience of only Asian women! White people love me!”
Kristina Wong is the new black! And Tulsa came out to my show! Only one older Asian woman came to my show. She was very sweet. An older Asian woman who put $5 in a Chinese New Year envelope and during the pre-show walked onto the stage and whispered, “Miss Wong? Happy New Year” and put it in my lap.
I never got to thank her. So I just wanted to let that lady know THANK YOU. It was very touching. THANK YOU!
Before Saturday’s show we went to Pawhuska, an hour from Tulsa to check out the Bison.
It was like a road safari. We were able to see the Bison from the car. Many of them were just 20 feet from the road. Bison eat and shit in the same place– what many would liken to a “workplace romance.”
I avoided stepping on Bison pie! I have the rest of my life to step in shit.
From the snow to the desert. I am in the Grady Gammage theater right now and there are like 12 crew people setting up the stage for me. Oh no wait… they are BUILDING a stage for me. JESUS! Is this really my life? The show is almost sold out and I’ve never even been here before. My name shows up on advertisements next to Mary Poppins which also plays here. The talk I’m giving tonight will have like 80 people there.
I give talks in different classes every day and someone from ASU picks me up and drops me by. And they ask me what I’d like to drink and bring it for me. After having sat in the woods fighting my humidifier, and wondering if I am really an artist or not, I can’t believe the fanfare here. I can’t believe this is my awesome life.
Nine years ago, I wrote my first solo show and was scraping by making a living on ebay. I was playing whatever venue would have me. Now I have all these crew people here setting up a stage for my show. I am selling out cities I’ve never been to before. I feel like a rock star.
The trails of Space Shuttle Endeavor as seen from New Smyrna Beach.
It’s my last full day at this three-week residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and it’s been a full and idea-filled three weeks but I must say, I am ready to go home.
I’m bug eaten, 10 pounds heavier, attempted to watch the shuttle launch twice before a real lift-off, and I’ve not gotten much of my own creative work done. I’ve seen so much craziness that if I don’t get a grip on reality soon, I may start smoking crack. I also randomly started work on a screenplay… which is kind of in a swirl now but if I get the time to keep working on it, it should look pretty good.
Everyone here is running around with cameras, projectors, or big messy props… and I found myself focused inward and just focusing on getting writing done. This particular residency is very active and distracting because we’re made up of solo performers and performance artists (very needy and need attention), video artists (very nerdy and need space), and experimental composers (very noisy and need noise).
I think I said the best line this week is when I asked the master artist-in-residence, experimental composer Mark Applebaum: “So when reviewing work samples, how do you distinguish bad experimental composition from VERY bad experimental compostion?”
(Relax folks, he laughed.)
It’s a group that knows no conventions or rules. And there’s trash everywhere that people are using for their projects. I have just relinquished my hoarding ways in this move to Silverlake, so it’s hard to watch so many of these artists accumulate so much crap for use in their work. A few artists drove from across the country so they could have their cars handy to drive to stores to buy things for projects and drag the stuff they make back home. The thrift stores here are insane (imagine how many retirees are dropping dead every second in Florida and the stuff they leave behind). I don’t want to become a walking Sanford and Son again, so now when I travel, I purposely pack small carry-on sized bags to prevent accumulation.
One of the locals agrees to be a kitschy prop for my photo.
Tonight, we’re putting on a showing of our works-in-progress for what will probably be about 30 residents in the local community and it’s turning into a full on carnival of video projections and walk through performances. Chaos everywhere and I’m not sure how many of the artists (including myself) will get to see each others’ work. I’ve opted to do something I never do in performance situations– scale the f*ck down. I’m doing a five minute character based scene that I’ll perform alone. With no props, no projections, no audience interaction, and no signature overhead projector. For the first time in my entire life, I feel like the most simple and conventional artist of the entire lot. Next thing you know I’ll be doing hokey one person multi-character shows where I educate people about diversity and how we’re all the same inside. (“There’s only one race folks. Human.”)
My project tonight is modest. I am having folks audition to be “the pick up artist” and I’ll possibly use the footage to be part of my development for CAT LADY. I have scripts from pick-up artist instruction manuals that people will read on-camera like audition sides. Just borrowing a camera, tripod, etc is becoming a ridiculous ordeal. There are some people here who know how to sodder machines together to make movement sensitive lights. I can’t even find a freaking tripod for my fake audition.
Last night Brian Feldman (Think of him as Orlando, FL’s balder, broker, and more brilliant version of David Blaine, if David Blaine didn’t actually have magic powers but just an intense need to put himself in strange situations for long stretches of time) started yet another project here. He decided to jump for 24 straight hours in the amphitheater. Mind you, it’s Florida in the Summer so the amphitheater is full of bugs, very humid, and lonely.
Why would someone do something so seemingly organ-failure inducing?
Well, duh, because he was trying to enact the situation from an obscure film created by an Italian filmmaker who was in residence here 10 years ago. In that obscure film, the artist describes jumping up and down for 24 hours straight. He didn’t actually do this in real life, but for the plot of the film, he does. So Brian thought he’d reference it using the same area of the compound as the Italian artist.
It seemed very amusing and like it might be fun to watch Brian hopping up and down at 4am. But I guess we (well, mostly he he) did not factor in that staying up 24 hours straight causes delirium and for even the most motivated of artists, is a task that is not actually physically possible. Even with breaks (especially if you have not slept the night before), it’s completely and totally physically dangerous and could cause death.
At lunch before Brian started, I became concerned. Brian was carbing up with wet noodles and bread. Add to all of this… Brian is a vegan too– yes, that’s right, a vegan jumping non-stop for 24 hrs (Eat your heart out drunk guy who lost his arm when he went swimming in a swamp of alligators) ! Brian was eating with his bare hands. He was shaking and his eyes were flittering back and forth– he hadn’t slept the night before because he was working so hard on preparing for this piece.
I normally am so embroiled in my nutsy productions that I can’t help do production for other people, but I found myself saying to him, “Ok, please dude, let me help you. ” I bought him VHS tapes at Walmart so he could document the jumping on this old camcorder for two hours at a time. Mind you, I just shed dozens of new VHS tapes at last month’s yard sale, so having to buy more was heartbreaking. Brian had no money, so I just bought them for him, and now he says I have full rights to the work. (Yay, I’m rich?)
PTA Mom of performance art, I also helped Dawn Weleski sew her costume. She’s another one of the artists who is doing 6 million things while she is here. Her project is her going around dressed as Dr. Andrew Turnbull, the founder of New Smyrna Beach, FL and doing historical re-enactments of his journey in public areas around the city. She got kicked out of the Publix but for some reason, the people at the local pub took to her quite well.
Here’s Dawn as Dr. Turnbull at a bar telling the locals about her contributions to New Smyrna Beach.
When we returned to the compound at 1am, I became very concerned about Brian who had been jumping for over five hours. He was clutching his stomach saying that he was cramping, and a few times would kneel in ways that looked like he was collapsing. I’d scream, “Brian! Brian!” And he’d get up and say, “Don’t take a picture of this!” And give his minimum jump per minute.
The fans were blowing on either side of him, it was hard for him to hear, plus he was delirious, and he was wearing sunglasses (as the actor does in the film being referenced in the piece). I’d scream, “Brian, you don’t have to do this all night.” And he’d mutter, “No, I can keep doing this” and punctuate it with a very sickly jump.
I imagined us at 4am, someone coming to check on Brian, him collapsed on a pedastal. And us having to explain to the paramedic:
“Ok, so what happened here? He looks exhausted, malnourished and he’s balding.”
“Listen, he wanted to jump up and down for 24 hours straight. I guess he had already been doing it for 7 hours before he collapsed.”
“Why was he jumping up and down so long? Is he mentally ill?”
“No mentally ill people aren’t as theatrically lit and thoroughly self-documented as Brian is. This was art.”
“It was art?”
“You see, he was trying to re-enact this fake performance in the video.”
“You mean like kids who jump out of windows so they can fly like TV superheroes?”
“Yes, but in a post post meta way, yes.”
It was turning very quickly into a bad sitcom. He was smelling of sweat from 25 feet away. He was clutching his stomach in pain. He was wobbling. It was at first amusing to watch, then exhausting, then worrisome.
I pulled Heather aside and said, “We can’t let this continue. This is seriously a lawsuit waiting to happen. I was shaking watching him. He’s going to die. If I have to throw him over my shoulder and tie him into a bed I will.”
And then I thought, hmmm… maybe this is what Brian wanted. It wasn’t art. It was getting women to fetch him fans and water to cool him down, to update his twitter for him, and insist with sweet coddling voices, “Please Brian Feldman, go to bed. Please we need you to go to bed.”
The women gathered round him. And after what was apparently, quite an intervention, and a lot of reasoning that “Yes Brian, it’s still art, even if it wasn’t for 24 full hours,” he was coaxed to bed.
After speculation at lunch that he might be dead, I am happy to report that Brian Feldman is alive and scheming. And he’s planning to resume jumping as people arrive for tonight’s festivities. And next week that crazy SOB plans to stay inside a Vegan restaurant in Orlando (what may be up to five days) until he’s eaten every item off the menu. This means he will be sleeping and passing waste in the same space 600 square feet until he’s eaten every dish they offer.
This can only illuminate the Vegan lifestyle.
Tonight, we are singing a duet of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” as part of his redux of “Under the Covers”… the site-specific cabaret in his room where all the singing is done under the sheets.
This week was long and went by fast. I definitely had a moment mid-week where I was homesick for Los Angeles. (What?!) There’s a reason why people who move from out of state to Los Angeles go on and on about “how great the LA weather is.” With the absence of seasons in Los Angeles also comes the wonderful absence of mosquitos. I am reminded quickly that in every other city in the world must deal with the reality of flesh eating bugs.
This week was rough on me, I couldn’t sleep a couple nights because I was so bitten. I’d wake up at 4am, rub any and all of the offerings at CVS for bug bites, pass out, and wake up again to itching. I have also not been able to get the exercise I normally get in LA because there are so many bugs out here it’s a whole process of spraying intense amounts of deet on and still getting bit when you walk out.
In this week alone, my legs have provided the sustenence to singlehandedly double the population of NO-SEE-UMs here at New Smyrna Beach (see photo above).
On Tuesday, a beekeeper came by and talked to us about honeybees. There’s a hive here at the residency. It’s quite fascinating. Honeybees are dying out! Pesticides is one reason. Also, people aren’t getting into the beekeeping profession the way they used to. Though there is a resurgence of independent beekeepers. There are hobbyist beekeepers who have bee colonies on their rooftops in New York City.
He gave us plastic spoons to take bites of pure honey in the honeycomb. It was so delicious.
The story of the honey bees is perhaps an allegory for migration, greed, and working together. But I couldn’t tell you why. Too complicated for this blog.
After his talk we went over to the hives at the ACA compound but unfortunately, there were no bees there because some beetles who are not native to Florida had eaten all the bee larvae.
It was kind of anti-climatic to come out after his lecture and look at empty and deserted honeycombs.
He was talking more about how bad pesticides were for the bees and at that moment the No-see-ums were totally feasting on my thighs, I wanted to squirt down with bug spray right then but felt the moment wasn’t appropriate because he was going on and on about how bad chemicals are. As a result, I ended up with very itchy, very hot swollen and bug eaten legs.
This is New Smyrna Beach. The big deal with the beaches from here to Daytona is you can drive your car right on the sand. For some reason the sand is wet and packed flat which keeps the cars from sinking in. The flat wet sand is annoying to put your blanket on because the towel gets wet fast, and when you pick up your blanket to go home, there’s algae growing under there! The joys of moisture.
My fancy lady artists friends hit the beach.
On Tuesday, we cancelled the workshop to watch MJ’s memorial. It was pretty surreal that the entire country/world was focused on this ceremony. I found the whole thing pretty fascinating. Talk about your use of euphemisms and generous verbal editing!
We were all in tears when Paris Jackson, the daughter so shielded from the press, took the mic, and screamed how much she would miss her father. It was real. Three children who now don’t have parents. I found it so ironic that all her family could do was coach her into the mic and groom her hair. Showbiz family instincts.
When it was over, I asked aloud, “So can we go back to the American past time of ridiculing famous people until they die unexpectedly and then we feel bad and miss them?”
My new favorite artist is ACA Associate Artist-in-Residence Brian Feldman who perhaps is Orlando’s answer to “What else you got besides Disney World? And for cheap?”
Brian does endurance and site-specific performance. Stuff I wish I could do more of. As it is, doing the stuff that you can charge people tickets for is a stressful enough way to make a living. So there’s only so much 24 hour ladder jumping or 8 hour newspaper reading that I can imagine doing before I am thrown in complete financial peril. My hats off to the artists like Brian who execute every crazy and brilliant idea that comes to them.
He owns a portable marquee which is so smart for what he does. An instant theater in every space! Even a bedroom!
His show was a site-specific cabaret called “Under the Covers.” Basically, he sang songs by request with a live accompanist all from underneath his blankets. It came from a dream he had the first night he was here and genius that he is, he turned it into real life. I was in awe and hysterics the entire time and told him that when he comes to LA, he is welcome to perform in my bedroom!!! (Shut up you wiseguys!)
Eli is son of Master artist Carol Kim. He is 5 years old and announced at lunch that he was holding a robot drawing contest at dinner and that there would be a prize for the first and second best drawings. It was so charming and probably the first time we had been galvanized as a whole to produce creative work on the fly. He produced and juried the competition. We found ourselves all drawing robots. It was so seemingly low pressure but I was struck with the need to win. I snuck glances at everyone else’s drawing to borrow robot features I might have forgotten.
This is Eli on the left and Chris (the winner) on the right. The prize was a “crane/blaster” made of plastic tape, paper, and plastic knives.
My drawing is on the right. I tried to pull Eli’s heartstrings by naming the robot after him (the “Eli-tron 2000″) and I presented the only 2-headed robot. In one hand, ice cream! In the other, a $100 bill. But the kid was not bribed nor swayed by my amazing drawing. I didn’t place.
Last night we went down to Daytona Beach which can best be described to Miami what Jersey is to New York City. We’re going again tonight. White trash anthropology at its finest.
No, it’s not my new boyfriend. Nor a local… well, yes a local, but a local artist named Brian Feldman who is also in residence here at Atlantic Center for the Arts. He’s in costume because we all went to see the race at Daytona. His work is brilliant. In fact, today he hosted a 10 hour hot dog eating contest. I would be competing… but… read below at my agony…
Last year at this time, I was wandering around the Manasota Key (on another artist residency) with Larry the Cracker (an older fella with a confederate flag hat who taught me to fish). We watched the fireworks go off, said goodbye, and then I ran back into the artist residency house and locked both locks of the door.
This 4th of July, I celebrate my independence by working for the umpteenth day in a row on a grant application. Oh yes, and watching the clip of Sarah Palin recite that run-on sentence from yesterday for a live audience of seven. (WTF?!)
I want to run about with the other artists, but unfortunately, I gotta lock in the dough.
Here is the view I have from my laptop, chained to miserable narrative questions.
But on a brighter note! Here’s my report from yesterday’s trek to Daytona….
Last night we got tickets from the Chef who works here to go to Daytona 250 to watch cars go by. We had to buy two tickets from scalpers so the six of us could all get in. The value of each ticket was $60! But we only had to pay $60 for the extra two tickets.
Let’s just say this auto racing shit is the armpit of masculinity. I don’t get it. I learned that the number after the race (in this case “250″) is not the combined IQ of the stadium but it means how many miles the cars go around. Yes! There is seriously a subculture where thousands of people gather to watch cars drive 250 miles. This race takes HOURS. We were at the top of the stands and it was friggin loud. We didn’t stay til the end. After the obligatory gawking at the locals and trying to wait it out for the fireworks, we trudged back home.
We stopped at a bikini bar called “Bottoms Up” that’s near our compound. It was standard depressing fare but as curious visitors we had to see the dredgery for ourselves. There is a 23 year old artist named Chris from Wisconsin who is here. Poor thing is a vanilla cupcake and was freaking out and processing out loud with me about how he felt like he was “feeding the patriarchy.”
I handed him a dollar and said, “Dude. Just give this to the dancer and help her pay the rent.”
Here I was earlier in the week giving a presentation on my entire life’s work. I had five minutes to do it. I put on my nice dress for it. It went over ok.