Tag Archives: bettye lavette

Lame Adventure 108: An Invitation from Suzan-Lori Parks to Milton and Me!

Recently, The Public Theater, where Milton and I share a membership, sent us an email that said the following about a playwright we both admire:

Suzan-Lori Parks Invites You to Watch Her Work

This performance piece, a meditation on the artistic process and an actual work session, features Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks working on her newest writing project in the main lobby of The Public Theater. The audience is invited to come and watch her work and/or to share the space and get some of their own writing work done. During the last fifteen minutes of the performance Parks will answer any questions the audience might have regarding their own work and their creative process.

The problem is that S-LP is doing this during the workday proper and my boss Elsbeth’s calendar is already packed with notes about my comings and goings related to all the New York Film Festival screenings I have been attending.  I ponder how she might digest a request from me to cut out for a seventy-five minute adventure, excluding travel time, to watch a writer write in a lobby packed with students, retirees, and people that called in phony-sick from work.

As much as I would like to employ the “something came up” tactic, I fear that this could backfire badly:

Me:  Elsbeth, something came up. I have an opportunity to network* with a brilliant playwright.

Elsbeth:  That’s great.  Who?

Me:  Suzan-Lori Parks.

Elsbeth:  Who?

Me:  She won the Pulitzer for Topdog/Underdog.

Elsbeth:  Should I know about this?

Me:  You do now Boss!

Elsbeth:  When are you going to meet with her?

Me:  That’s the thing.  I have choices.  Today, at noon, tomorrow at three, or Friday morning at eleven.

Elsbeth:  I have a better idea.  How about you stay chained to your desk, get some work done since I’m paying you, and you don’t go at all?

That’s the type of suggestion I would make to my sidekick, Greg, if he tried to pull this on me, after I had granted him three days worth of favors in the same week, and I also had an eyelash stabbing me in the iris.  Greg is straightforward with me when he needs a favor.  I could try the straightforward approach with Elsbeth.

Me:  Get a load of this, I’ve got an invitation from The Public Theater to watch resident playwright Suzan-Lori Parks write.

Elsbeth:  You’re going to watch someone write now?

I instinctively know from that imaginary reaction the conversation will crash land.

Milton is not inclined to barter with his superiors to attend S-LP’s writing session.  He even purposely resisted the opportunity to attend a book signing with one of his favorite authors, Michael Cunningham.  Milton’s purpose was to stay home and write, although we did spend forty-five minutes on the phone discussing his act of extreme self-sacrifice.

Milton:  I really wanted to see him, but we’ve been going out so much lately, I’m not getting any writing done.  At this rate, I won’t have anything finished until next year.

Me:  I’m torn over missing S-LP.  I just think if I laid this on Elsbeth right now, I’ll cross the line with her and she’ll finally detonate.

Milton:  I don’t think missing seeing her write is missing much.  No one would want to see me write.  That’s for sure.

Me:  You think?  First you open a bottle of wine, pour yourself a glass, and check your e-mail.  Then, you open Word.  You top off your glass of wine and play Bettye LaVette on your iPod.  You decide to change the font from Arial to Times New Roman, and write a sentence.  You hate the sentence, and then decide what you really hate is writing in Times New Roman.  Instead of changing the font back to Arial first, you delete the sentence, save your changes, but then you cannot recall what the sentence was.  Frustrated, you pour yourself a third glass of wine and watch a DVD.

Milton:  Have you been watching me write?

*This is no more of a networking-type event than I could claim I once had a conversation with baseball hall of fame catcher Gary Carter.  Years ago, when I was working as a production assistant on a Pringle’s potato chip commercial featuring then New York Mets catcher, Carter, I was told to fetch a can of Coke for him.  I did.  When I entered his dressing room and handed it to him, devout Christian Carter said, “God bless you.”  Dedicated atheist me asked, “Who sneezed?”  Fortunately he laughed at my snark, and I was not fired on the spot.

Lame Adventure 77: Weekend Getaway!

As mentioned in my previous post, my friends, Ulla and Charles, invited Milton and I to spend the weekend at their lovely home in Hampton Bays.  According to Wikipedia, Hampton Bays is a hamlet in Suffolk County, New York in the Town of Southampton.  Or, as Milton said, “You figure out how we’re going to get there.”

On Saturday morning, we rode the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to our destination. The train ride took a few hours.  For much of our journey, the passengers sitting across from us talked loudly and incessantly about numerous grisly murders.  Exasperated, Milton muttered, “How many murders are in this conversation?”  This made me laugh and in doing so I accidentally squeezed the polka dot bikini clad rubber chicken squeaky toy we had brought for our friends’ border collies, Tulip and Astro.

Tulip wanting to play.

Astro!

This momentarily silenced the murderers row narrators and caused the guy sitting in front of us reading his iPad to jump about fifty feet.  Milton recommended that I muzzle the chicken or face the consequences of getting our throats slit possibly with a new iPad app.

Ulla was waiting for us at the station in her air-conditioned car, which was brilliant since we both nearly suffered heat stroke upon exiting the train into the blast furnace-like temperature outside.  She had to work a few hours more, so she drove us to Sag Harbor where Milton tried in vain to scarf a rum raisin ice cream cone that was determined to drip on his hand and shoe in a melted mess in the searing afternoon heat.  Since I’m brutally lactose intolerant, I had a synthetic flavored watermelon ice, which apparently no customers have ordered since 2003, so it had the capacity to remain igloo wall hard even in the fires of hell.

Sag Harbor Ice Cream store

Sag Harbor boats

To further escape the heat, we dove into a wonderful bookstore called BookHampton.  It reminded me of Endicott Booksellers, a booklovers oasis that I used to frequent on Columbus Avenue in the Eighties and Nineties.  I remember getting the homina, homina, hominas when Susan Sontag walked past me, but I held my own when I encountered Camille Paglia at a book signing.  Endicott closed in 1995; a few years after a Barnes & Noble Superstore opened nearby that essentially devoured the little guy.  <sigh>

Milton has never heard of this author, but he likes this book's cover.

After killing about an hour in BookHampton, much of it spent turning the pages of a coffee table book edited by Picasso’s granddaughter called Art Can Only Be Erotic or Make Sure the Kids are Not Around When You Look at This, we next ventured up the street to a hardware store in search of our favorite drain cleaner, Pequa, not that we needed Pequa at this time, but we just wanted to see if they had it in Sag Harbor.  We couldn’t find it.  Then, Ulla met us again.  She asked us what we did during our visit to this picturesque town.  We mentioned the ice cream and BookHampton, but left off the part about our drain cleaner hunt, not that that would have surprised her.  She was born and raised in Sweden.

Ulla then took us on a scenic ride of the area showing us where the swells live as well as a number of McMansions.  I became fixated on a cornfield and a row of birds perched on street lamps.  Even though we were barely a hundred miles out of the city, I momentarily thought we had entered the Twilight Zone.

Birds perched on light posts.

We then went to an outdoor bar where we met our mutual friend, Coco, for a relaxing drink before heading back to Ulla’s house where we were greeted by Charles and their energetic canine comedy team, Tulip and Astro.

Ulla grilled a delicious marinated flank steak for dinner.  Coco brought excellent raspberry and chocolate sorbets with cookies for dessert.  In between we drank copious amounts of wine over the course of several hours.  Electronics wizard Charles has a state-of-the-art sound system where you name any song playing in the iPod in your head and he programs it so it plays.  Milton wanted to hear the R&B artist, Bettye LaVette, and Charles was game to accommodate his request, but was stumped over not being able to access her music.  As it turns out, we were misspelling her name!  Equipped with the correct spelling, Charles found her in his system in a nanosecond. Very cool.

The next day Ulla and Charles asked us if we wanted to go to the beach.  The consummate city slickers that neither swim nor drive, our first thought was “no.” We were both perfectly content to play with the dogs and lounge by the pool we would never dare enter.

Back yard paradise

Back yard paradise hammock

Not wanting to appear like the lumps we are we said, “Okay, sure.”  We piled into Charles’s SUV and headed to the beach.  When he stopped at a 7-Eleven store to pick up a newspaper, Milton and I assumed we were at the beach.  We looked around and wondered where the sand and ocean were hiding.  Milton opened his car door to exit.  Ulla patiently shed daylight on the situation, “Guys, we’re at 7-Eleven.  This isn’t the beach.”

The beach itself really did look like the beach.  The sand was hot as we trekked towards the ocean, both wondering, “This is so much work. Where’s the fun?”   My assignment was to carry the bananas.

Banana ass shot of Ulla and me.

Both Charles and Ulla are either people with phenomenal inner GPS (something neither Milton nor I have at all, especially if we both can mistake a 7-Eleven for the beach) for they instantly found their very cool friends from Brooklyn, D&G.  I was awestruck that people from Brooklyn cannot only swim, but swim in the ocean.  Then again, we’re from Manhattan and can barely handle sitting in our bathtubs without water wings.

D&G and Charles

After much cajoling, Ulla finally managed to get Milton and I to take a walk along the ocean’s edge where, naturally, it is so much cooler.  The surf rolling in and out felt great on our feet.  Milton was certain that the lifeguards had their eyes on us the entire time and said to each other, “Those two down there; the awkward uncoordinated ones.  Code red.”

Just another day at the office until ...

"Look down there. See those two stumbling around? Bad news on feet."

Better keep an eye on them.

I was worried that the surf might knock me down.  Milton assured me that fear was unfounded.  Then, the surf knocked him down in front of a two-year-old girl that was standing in front of him.  Milton is still baffled how a pint-sized person that weighs about as much as his right elbow did not fall down.  Even Milton’s significant splash did not knock down that little kid.  After spitting out a salmon, Milton told me that the Atlantic does indeed taste salty.

Look at me, Mister! I'm still standing!

Back up on dry land, we were feeling pretty tranquil.  Sitting on the beach in the company of good friends staring out at the ocean is quite nice.  When we headed back to the car, the sand had even felt reduced from third degree burn level to second.

At Ulla’s house, we sat around the pool, sipped beers with Charles and played with Tulip and Astro.  Coco joined us since she was driving us to the train station. Before leaving, we showered in the outdoor shower Charles built (we determined that he and Ulla are capable of doing anything; had they lived in the Gulf, they probably would have solved the oil spill down there in a week).  Then, we bid our fond farewells to our wonderful hosts and headed back to Gotham.

On the LIRR heading back to the city, two very polite middle aged women sat across from us speaking Italian the entire time.  Every so often words in English would pop up such as “Six Flags” or “Bridgehampton.”  I did not have the impression that they were talking about murder at a Six Flags in Bridgehampton.  Milton said that sitting across from them made him feel like he was in a foreign film.  He added, “I wouldn’t change a single minute of this weekend.”  Neither would I.

Goofing around on a sand dune.