Mara and Alicia

Mara seemed to radiate as she crossed the stage. It was her night. All eyes were on the small figure with the big hairdo, tightly fitting clothing and long legs. As she began to dance, she could feel every muscle in her body stretching and contracting in just exactly the right way, willing her to use it to the utmost. It was the opening night, and she was a star.
When she was onstage, she could forget about the real life. In her real life, she was named Alicia. In her real life, she had to go to the hospital twice a day to check up on her mother who had recently gotten alcohol poisoning. Again. The doctors had insisted on keeping her there for a while because they thought they also felt something strange in her breast when they’d done a full physical. Alicia had no idea how they were going to pay for it all. Alicia knew she needed to call her father again and plead with him to send them more cash. Alicia fell asleep every night with her tears drying on her face.
Mara, on the other hand, didn’t have a mother. She lived as a tenant with an older woman, yes, but there were no ties between them. She told her friends that the old lady had gotten alcohol poisoning and how pathetic that was. They all nodded sympathetically, with their too-big eyes drifting away to their tiny cubes of cheese which were their only sustenance for the day. Mara hated them all and she knew that they hated her too, but they had to get along because they didn’t want their director/choreographer to give them another lecture. Then, too, was the fact that none of them had any other friends anymore. That tended to happen during the strenuous periods before new shows went on, because they spent so many hours of the day rehearsing that they naturally could only talk to and complain with each other, since no one else understood exactly how much their toenails hurt, how hungry they were, how itchy their scalp was because of the hairspray and how much they craved a cheeseburger and a beer on the beach.
Alicia knew she wasn’t well. Alicia went to a therapist twice a week because she was terrified of herself and what she was doing to her body. She hated the feeling of her fingers going deep and the vomit creeping up her raw and swollen throat. She hated the raspy voice she’d developed, even though the man she worked for told her it was “tres sexy.” She hadn’t needed to do this only two years ago when she’d gotten accepted to the company and there was really no reason for her to be doing this now, except that everyone else was and it seemed to be expected. But she worried about needing replacement teeth and she knew she didn’t have enough money for that.
Mara never worried about money. When she went out with the friends she hated, she was the one who managed to get free drinks by nuzzling up to the older men on the bar. She would sometimes find herself in their beds in the morning, but she didn’t allow herself to worry about that too much. It was worth it, she figured, for the feeling of bliss that crept over her when she had had so much to drink that her head was fuzzy and the room was spinning gently and she knew that no matter what – no matter what – nothing could really hurt her at that moment.
When Alicia and Mara met, as they sometimes did, accidentally, when the were switching out the use of the same body, they seemed to hedge warily around each other. Alicia idolized Mara and Mara looked down on Alicia. But Alicia also knew that Mara wasn’t practical, and that she would ultimately destroy her. She hated Mara, even though she envied her carefree lifestyle and her confidence. She also worried, because she knew that the facade of Mara was wearing thin. She wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be able to keep it up.
But right then, under the hot spotlights, knowing that the audience couldn’t see how hard she was working or the sweat already rolling down her back, knowing that they only saw this graceful body moving with the utmost precision – at that moment Alicia took over from Mara and allowed herself to simply be within the dance, to fly and leap and soar and tumble to the ground in an ecstasy of movement.

The Servant

The Servant walked through the halls and knew himself to be invisible. Every effort he made to please went unnoticed and unremarked upon. Every action he took was taken for granted, never acknowledged. Every breath that he took seemed to be silent and he so rarely used his voice that he almost forgot what it sounded like. He must be invisible then, perhaps not even substantial enough to be considered a living human being.

And yet his hands felt substantial enough when he lifted the dinner things off the table. The muscles in his arms hurt when he took the heavy coal box from one room to the next in the winter. His legs ached and his feet blistered as he trudged through the snow to get the carriage or the horses or the ponies for the girls in the winter. In every physical aspect he felt real and alive – so he cherished his work and bore it, day after day, because he felt through it what it was like to be a person.

On the other hand, he very much doubted that the Master or the Mistress or the little girls often felt such aches and pains as him and they considered themselves to be extremely alive – more alive than him for certain. Perhaps, if so, the pain he bore wasn’t a sign of being a person? Perhaps it meant something else – that he was like an animal, bred only to do the work for others. Of course, unlike animals, he received a sum of money for his constant drudgery.

Every time he remember the fact that he earned wages, The Servant felt slightly better. It was then that he would think of his free day once every two weeks; it was then that he would remember what it was like to whirl a pretty girl around the dance floor at the best tavern in town; it was then that he would remember that he knew how to laugh and that he could make others laugh too. So long as he was stuck in the house with Master and Mistress and the little girls, though, he felt he was invisible, a ghost that came to life only once in two weeks but was dead as can be the rest of his days.

Magical Musicals

For those who know me personally, you know I listen to lots of rock music [from old rock, to new, more pop-like bands], cabaret-punk, and undefined indie music like Tori Amos and the like. Another part of my broad musical taste is my love, my deepest and most obsessive love, of musicals. I have a friend who shares my love for them – or perhaps, thinking back, she’s the one who actually got me into them. Apart from the fact that I love the music, the stories and the dancing, I am always simply in awe of musicals.

For one, musical casts are made up of actors who are dancers and singers. They roll three separate talents into their person. There can’t be a mediocre one in the bunch, or it simply won’t work. Singing while dancing, they whirl around the stage – and when they stop singing and dancing long enough to speak, they’re as convincing as any other stage actor.

Next, we have the writers and creators of musicals. They compose, they write lyrics, they make up a story that manages to center around it all and somehow fit dancing in without looking ridiculous. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that it takes years to write a good musical.

Lastly, there’s the performance as a whole. Watching a musical on stage is simply a staggering experience. The grandness of it all, the lighting, the costumes, the sheer talent of the actors/dancers/singers! The notes they can hit and the emotion they manage to put in their voices and movements – it is magic, pure magic.

The Promanade

Every city has its wonders. Every city has its own unique little areas, places that are hip, places that are dangerous but still frequented, places that are historical or monumental or just plain beautiful. As societies have developed and more and more cities emerged, they’ve gotten their own kind of charm, and no two are completely alike.

Los Angeles is a strange city. You have to drive almost everywhere – there is public transportation but it’s not the best and most people seem to own cars. The city is more like a cluster of suburbs surrounding a few small major areas. Many people hate it for that exact reason – it’s not easily accessible to everyone, and you can never just walk out of your house and walk a block to buy milk for your morning coffee.

However, as I’ve mentioned here before, Los Angeles is also a wonderful city, and I love it. One of my favorite areas is Santa Monica, which is technically its own city, but I can’t help but just include it in LA. It’s a wonderful little area – right on the ocean, buildings ranging from beautiful to ugly as sin, lots of shops and restaurants and theaters.

The best part of Santa Monica is The Promenade. It’s about four or five blocks of closed road – no cars allowed – and it’s like an outdoor mall, only no mall could ever feel like this. There are street performers, good ones, up and down the whole street. Today, for instance, in the space of half an hour I got to see three teenaged boys perform some of the best dancing I’ve seen, a violinist playing with extreme gusto and smiling as an oddly dressed man danced with him, and a few men giving salsa lessons to random women in the street if they wanted them. There are shops of every type everywhere, and about twelve different types of food you can eat. It’s a wonderful place, and the atmosphere is simply charming, lively and fun.

Fairy Dust

Inside a snow-globe that sits in a shop in a corner of a tourist town buried deep under snow and constant cheer, there are three fairies dancing.
The fairies dance to a melody that only they can hear, trapped as they are in a roughly blown glassy ball, cheaply attached to a plastic bottom and full of a strange liquid that is neither water nor oil.
The fairies, their painted faces smiling at each other in their silent and stationary dance, will forever be suspended in a happy moment, in a dream of a movement which never has and never will exist.
If you look at the fairies you might get the illusion that they’re about to move – that they’re really just one moment away from jumping up and beginning to dance in truth, listening to the music which only they can hear. Looking at them, you might wish that they were alive, because such happiness seems to be wasted on such beings that aren’t alive and never will be.
If you pick up the glass globe and shake it, the fairy-dust and glitter and the few flakes of snow that litter the bottom will begin to swirl and you’ll be able to see, for a moment only, the fairies whirling around along with the glitter, laughing and singing. The moment you take a closer look, though, the movement will cease, and you’ll never know if you really saw what you thought you saw or if you just wanted so badly for the fairies to be alive that they obliged your imagination for a split second.

Wind

Wind whispers through the small crack between the window and the wall and enters the warmly lit apartment. It skips all over the kitchen chairs, startling the cats, and cackles with merriment as it passes the whirring refrigerator. The wind plays up and down through the whole kitchen, brushing the coffee mugs, the kettle, the toaster. It moves on into the open living room, investigating the television and blowing dust into it and making the leaves of the plants sway slightly as it brushes them.

The wind keeps going and moving and flowing through the house, shying away from the hot heater and making odd noises as it rattles the doors in their frames. It soon reaches the cold bathrooms, and leaps up the walls to fill in the very corners with it’s cool cruelty. It brushes the cold taps and dances across the mirror.

Eventually the wind reaches the only room with any noise in the house, just a second or two after it began its investigation of the place. It cools the face of the teenage girl in her room, reminding her that she is alone in the house, alone apart from the kittens and the wind. The wind ruffles her hair and then escapes through the window behind her. It has learned a mood, a house, a person, a home, all in the space of a few moments, and it will keep darting across the many houses and apartments, and will keep gathering emotions, feelings, sights and sounds.