Thursday, January 28, 2016

Happenstance and God Giggles

Happenstance – it’s a melodic word. There are many blessing moments to be enjoyed through happenstance. Through the happenstance of re-connections made through Facebook a small group of women have gathered together with the connections we made in our high school years, over 44 years ago in Little Flower Catholic High School for girls, in Philadelphia. We were empowered with youthful energy and starry-eyed ideals although, raw with emotions and raging hormones.
Today we’d like to think our emotions are not so ruled by our hormones, but rather by the trappings our lives over the last four decades. As one of the girls stated at one of our get-togethers, “it’s like we picked up where we left off in 1972.” And so we have.  Only now, instead of peace sign earrings, hip hugger jeans and Flower Power tee shirts, we have found that we don’t want too much hugging our hips, we wear our tee shirts as loose as we can get them but still like those Peace Sign earrings.

We survived adolescence and are surviving middle age pretty much in the same fashion, mostly by simply being present and listening to each other.  Our high school years were not much different than our waxing elder years. We celebrate, we mourn, we whine, we hug.

Through the unfortunate happenstance of someone getting sick and unable to attend the Broadway performance of Al Pacino in China Doll, I received a last minute invitation to spend a day in New York with this group of girls. I gladly accepted her ticket, scoured the  internet for the reviews about the performance and then sulked. The critic reviews were scathing. The weather was iffy and I found that I had to drive, driving is not usually an issue, but lately  have been having issues with driving across bridges, an unavoidable chore when you live along the Delaware river.
Burlington Bristol Bridge
Although I recently learned waning hormones in women can cause this anxiety ‘issue’ with driving across bridges, I still had to cross one of our New Jersey drawbridges into Pennsylvania, to meet up with our travelling crew. I got over it, literally and figuratively.

Once at our gathering point we piled into one vehicle and were on our way up the New Jersey turnpike to New York city. Along the way we chatted about how we were mopey and whined about getting up and on the road early on a Saturday. Eventually the conversations segued into what we always end up talking about, our kids, our grandkids, our jobs and our own aches and pains.

We were fortunate that parking was close to the theater and our chosen lunch spot. As we navigated  the crowded  New York sidewalks, we were accessorized with what has become essentials for day trips, a cane, a walking stick and  a wheelchair.

By the end of the day the two of us that whined the most about the early start and often whine and complain of our bad knees, felt like we were athletic rock stars for the day. I found myself very aware and grateful for the blessing of my “good peasant stock”.  To quote a friend, it’s like a “God Giggle”. God tweaked my nose saying, “See, you’re not doing so badly after all, stop whining about your aging body. Move along.”

There can be heartfelt conflict in taking ‘me’ time. There are days when I need to escape from the matriarchal mothering demands of my multigenerational household, as do more than a few of my friends in this very special group of strong women.
It’s as good and necessary  for me as it is for the household.  While there is that conflict to escape the mothering role it was natural slip into a nurturing mindset clearing the way while we wheeled  our friend through New York streets and being mindful of the slow pace some of us needed to take with this journey at hand. It wasn’t an imposition or a chore. It was natural and simply being present in that moment with women who still see each other as young girls, another “God Giggle” in my mind.

“I will go before you and make the crooked places straight.” Isaiah 45: 2

"Forever we will be true!"

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Al Pacino in China Doll on Broadway

Did you know that Al Pacino is 75 years old?
I did not before yesterday.  
Through the misfortune of my friend Elisa getting sick with the flu, I took her place to attend the Broadway performance of China Doll, written by David Mamet and starring Al Pacino.

China Doll opened to scathing reviews, mostly directed towards Pacino’s performance along with questions about Mamet’s plot or lack thereof. Critics observed that Pacino had trouble remembering his lines and that he was difficult to hear clearly or understand.
The recently renovated Schoenfeld is small and compact enough that an actor on the stage is easily observed and heard.
The sound was fine. There was no problem hearing the volume of the dialog that was mostly various one-sided phone conversations or theatrical rants and emotional outbursts.

I found a subtle undertow to the story. Mamet gave an early brief overview of the story by saying, “the man (Mickey Ross) has just bought a new plane as a wedding present for his girl. He intends to go into semi-retirement and enjoy himself. In the process of leaving his office, giving last minute instructions to his assistant, he takes one last phone call…”

It wasn’t just one last phone call, but a continuous string a phone calls made to various unseen and unheard entities, as Mickey Ross works towards fixing a problem that at first seems to be an inconvenient bump in the road as he plans his exit to semiretirement and marriage to a beautiful much younger woman, his China Doll. That bump becomes a potential roadblock and the character of Mickey Ross is apparently someone who is quite used to having people and tools at his disposal to fix such things. He’s rude and vulgar and often berates his assistant Carson, played by Christopher Denham, and at the same time, educate Carson in how and why things happen the way they do in life and business.

An actor with the resume of Al Pacino will sell tickets  for almost any performance. That is a fact. When David Mamet initiated publicity for this play he stated that he wrote this particular play “for Al”. I can see that. Mickey Ross is an old man, self made billionaire and he’s tired and wants to down shift and coast into his Golden years with beauty and comfort. But somewhere along the way to this point he has pissed off enough people that the unseen “powers that be” are working to make sure that doesn’t happen. This is where Pacino shines in this role. His rants are often asking “What more can I do, what do you want from me?”, when all he really wants is to retire from his current life and start a new one, not so much start over, but essentially enjoy the fruits of his labor.

As for the critics’ reviews, it was obvious Pacino stumbled a line here and there, but it wasn’t egregious and he carried the show with his presence and talent. There might have been cues set up for him within the staging and the props. 
It didn’t matter to the audience. This was Al Pacino in an age appropriate role with the mouth of Tony Montana (Scarface), the shrewdness of Ricky Roma (Glengarry Glen Ross) and the wistful pining for days past of Lt. Col. Frank Slade (The Scent of a Woman).

David Mamet wrote this play for Al Pacino. But he also claimed that it was better than oral sex. It is not.