My parents actually aren't even here; they left town the day before I got here, and I'm staying with one of my oldest friends in the world, Miss Maz, and her two sweet kitties.
But somehow, even in this airconditioned apartment, on her flowered sofa, with her marble coffee table and the pretty little things she has gathered over the years, I can feel the Feeling I have about this place crouching outside the sliding glass door, panting, waiting for me to come out and play.
I can feel it in the heavy wet, humid air, in the show the trees make turning their white sides up in the wind. And in the way that I never have any absolutlely ANY clue where I am when I am here. My inner compass is blindfolded.
I'm here this time, this sticky June weekend, to face and pay homage to my past. Specifically my high school drama teacher, Joan.
It was the 80's and she was Awesome. Her favorite word was "panache". She wore huge silver rings on her long fingers, and her fashion was High, cut in the inverted triangle of the times, supported by some serious shoulder pads, in the winter covered by giant swirling capes. She smoked cigarettes almost constantly, 100's, and her nose, when she smoked, tilted up into an enviable patrician profile.
She directed plays in the big fat high school auditorium. A holy space with wings, and flys, and big heavy curtains. It was my Church.
But where life really happened for me was in the classroom.
The shabby cluttered glorious mess of a drama classroom. It was there that Joan worked the real magic, and challenged us all every day. We worked on tough scenes, crazy experimental theatre, performance art. She let us light shit on fire in there. We told the truth and cried (of course). We played only parts that we wanted to play. For some reason, she let me work for months on the part of a young black man who had just killed his mother.
She also gave me my first true comedic part, on the big stage, and let me find out I was funny. I won my first acting award under her tutelage. She let me be the editor on a script we worked on, and co-write a play for us all to do. There were no limits. And...we belonged. To her. To ourselves. To each other.
The relationship I had with Joan was not uncomplicated. I wanted to please her, for her to like me, to approve of me, to think I was a good actor. Some days I was mad at her. She knew how to intimidate, and seemed to do it if she thought it would be good for us. She treated us like adults, and we did our best to deserve the respect.
In the end of high school, I turned away from her somewhat, in confused teenage rebellion, dropping out of a play, disagreeing with decisions she had made, trying to find my own artistic moral center. But I still showed up in class every day, still longing to wring every drop of experience I could from those classes, from the proud, stylish artistry of Joan.
I never thanked her, never wrote her a letter to tell her what a profoundly positive influence she was on me. Chagrin is a bitter pill. Maybe Joan just knew.
My whole life, every time I've done something with "panache"...? It's all Joan.
It's not all craziness.