Friday, May 20, 2016


One of the reasons for moving back was to spend more time with my sister, who is somewhat special needs but mostly in need of social involvement. We have a good time together; movies, walking the beach and then breakfast at a local eaterie.

And fashion advice: I'm  still working on ways to explain why my 70+ mother's clothing choices for her might need to be re-examined. Once I picked her up to find her sporting a bright blue eyelash-yarn knit hat that looked like nothing so much as a Muppet massacre on her head, the kind of that that 80-year-olds think makes them look like Nora Desmond, but really screams "Don't stand in line behind me at the bank unless you have an hour to kill."

I tried beating around the bush:

"I know you like the hat, and you know I'm all about individual expression, but trust me that that hat does you no favors."

"I like it."

"I know you do, but trust believe me, it doesn't look groovy; it looks really goofy. Old-lady goofy."

"I wear it all the time."

"I know, but you might want to try something else."

"It's cute."

Time to cut to the chase.

"It makes you look retarded."




I still haven't won the battle of the Big White Sneakers. She loves them, and my mother keeps buying them for her. I got her to buy some cute Keds and some fun Champion kicks, but when I go to pick her up, there they are: big, white, horrible.

It's an ongoing internal struggle: I don't want her to be self-conscious, but on the other hand, I do. I want her to develop a fashion sense that doesn't make her look like she lives in a group home. My mother doesn't help, because she shares the same style. So I pick my battles, and try not to substitute one overbearing woman in my sister's life for another. But isn't it the job of a big sister to guide her little sister?

I let my sister be my sister. She can have poor table manners. When she's hungry, she's like a Springer Spaniel in a Purina commercial. In closely-seated restaurants, I have to remind her gently not to concuss nearby diners with her elbows when she uses her knife. I pick my battles, and figure: if she doesn't care about it after I've suggested she try not to be so coarse, why should I care? So I eat, avoid her elbows, and try not to get too bent out of shape by the sound of open-mouth chewing.

Although one time I called her on it, and later explained.

"I'm not trying to make you feel bad," I said.

"I know. It's gross," she said.

"It is gross. And it makes you look slow. You're not slow. I'm on your side, trust me."

"I know."

So I feel like a tyrant when I see her studiously chew with her mouth closed, but at the same time, she likes it when we hang out, so I can't be scarring her too much.

We went to a local arcade to play Skee Ball . Everyone in my family has at one point been a serious contender in a bowling league, my sister included, and we racked up some tickets. We decided to save our tickets through the summer and combine them for a serious prize. We cased the prize counter and dreamed big.

"Maybe we can get that plastic clock with the mermaids and dolphins on it."

My sister pointed to some emoji pillows. "Those are cute, too."

We agreed to shoot for the stars, and figured that if we spent a total of about $40 we could earn enough tickets to get us something that costs about $3.00 at a crap store. But buying it isn't as fun as standing, side, by side, whiffing Skee Balls up the ramp.

Sisters on a mission.

Walking the plank

The school play was a success, and so pleased was the director with my performance that he asked me whether I'd be in a 3-person 10-minute play he was directing for the Boston Theater Marathon.

The BTM is an annual fundraiser; 50 10-min plays are performed, represented by various area theater companies. I was honored to be asked.

Then I arrived at rehearsal and it was explained to me and my two co-performers that the entire scene was to be acted out on a plank about 10 feet long and a foot wide.

The premise is that two warm-blooded "tiny, insect-eating tree dwellers" discuss evolving, which conversation intensifies when a predatory cold-blooded creature comes along.

We had to "explore" how to move around, on, and under one another on this plank (the director has a thing for movement).  At first, I was all "are you kidding me?" but by production was all about the physicality.

Performance night came, and the other two actors and I were in "costume" backstage, "costume" being crocheted animal hats with ears for the mammals and dragon spikes for the reptile. Oh, and foam noses for the mammals. We walked the hallways backstage to curious stares ("It's very high concept" I told one gawker.)

Finally, in the green room with some other teams, one of them said, "So what are you guys anyway?"

The room got quiet as people listened.

"No idea, really" we said.

The stage manager came in. "MAMMALS!" he called out, and we took our places.

The one time I'd been to the BTM was well over a decade ago, and it was held in a small black-box space on a local university campus. Since then, it had grown and was now performed in a very large performance venue.

"Cripes, there's a balcony," I'd whispered, rattled but excited, at our brief tech rehearsal.

So we went on, and that magical thing happened: The audience filled in the missing piece.  We had to hold for laughs; I had a monologue that got applause, and we gave each other telepathic "really? huh!" looks onstage.

At the party afterward, we were told over and over how much people enjoyed the piece.

Go foam noses, kids' hats, and a plank. Cirque du Soleil, eat your heart out.