Thursday, February 5, 2009

... but i really just have friends

god, i love my friend o'dell. he sends me these things and suckers me in every time. is it because he knows i like to write or is it because he likes to read? doesn't matter, here i go ...

it’s time to share tidbits about our friends. tell us 15 things about your favorite memories, their best qualities, or funny stories.

1. o'dell ... seeing as he is the inspiration for this little exercise, it only seems right and fair to start with him ... o'dell directed me to what i think is my best performance ... ever. i don't have any idea what anyone else might feel about it, but playing lenny in 'crimes of the heart' still feels like the best thing i've ever done. we hardly knew each other then, but every day, o'dell reminded me that i was funny and strong and perfect in my imperfections ... and so i took that and infused lenny with those same qualities and loved every single second of it. to this day, i still start to cry whenever i sing 'happy birthday' to anyone - partly because of that lovely memory and partly because i miss his little bald head. owe're good friends now and he still makes me feel funny and strong and practically perfect in every way. he's a good, good man, that o'dell. and he looks mighty fine in a pair of spanx.

2. elizabeth seabolt-esparza (aka: lizard) ... it took knowing liz to know that unconditional love is really, truly possible. and she is the first person who was able to make me believe it could apply to me. it doesn't matter what i do or say or how long i'm gone, i know she'll be there, having kept my spot warm and waiting to hear the tales of my travels. she'll always tell me the truth about anything - which i need - and she'll never let me beat myself up about anything - which i need more. maybe it's because so little of her life has been easy; maybe it's because i gave her warm pajamas one particularly cold winter; the why isn't what's important. when someone extends their hand, you take it. simple. true. if liz extends hers to you ... take it. hold it tight. and kiss it for me.

3. kelli haskett ... kelli has known me longer than anyone (except laurie t. - and kelli knows her, too, back when she was tiny and a nuisance. laurie t., not kelli.). we were on the pom pon squad together at longmont junior high and from there, she became my first 'best friend.' i wonder if she knows that. we did all the things best friends do. we ate lunch together. we hung out at the mall. we hid in my room, made up dance routines and dreamed about kissing rick springfield. when we got to high school, we spent the entire summer between our sophomore and junior years sitting on the hill near the school watching baseball, working on our tans and cruising around town in her white mustang. it was the first and last time i ever remember feeling 'cool.' i have a hundred silly/lovely memories of the two of us (making strawberry daquiris in her parents kitchen; conning some old guy into buying us pink champagne at the liquor store; mooning over boys; sharing the sofa with her parents' giant dogs; sitting under the tree outside her house ...) eventually, the boys and books and cheerleading vs. speech team took their toll and we were reduced to waving at one another across the cafeteria. but, as much as everyone says you never forget your first love, you ought to know, you really, really never forget your first best friend. i don't know why i let us grow apart (except that i seem to do that with everyone), but i'm particularly blessed that we've found each other again. and at the next reunion, i'm totally renting a mustang, buying some really good champagne this time, and kelli and i are gonna park at the baseball field, talk about the boys we ended up with and sing 'jessie's girl' at the top of our lungs. who says you can't go 'home' again?

4. b.j. cleveland ... b.j. and met when i first auditioned for him for 'a prelude to a kiss.' he won't remember that. he was doing about 1,000 other things and hardly gave me the time of day. a few months later, he gave me my first break, playing delightful and nadine in 'dearly departed' and over the next few years, he entrusted a dozen more or so beautiful ladies to my care ... anita in 'a small family business;' lynn in 'search for signs of intelligent life in the universe;' maggie in 'dancing at lughnasa;' helen in 'laughter on the 23rd floor' (remember that red wig and all the pencils?); yvonne in 'a flea in her ear' (open! slam!!). it's because of b.j. that i know 'funny.' he taught me that. he helped me discover timing and subtlety and art of finding the 'bit.' he showed me that i didn't have to settle for simply 'liking' acting; he showed me i could really love it, and that it might be possible to become good at it. i will never be able to repay him for that. theatre has saved my life more times than i care to count. and to have learned under such a master is a treat. a gift, even. because b.j. is, hands down (wait. not 'hands down.' i should say, 'hands up' and those hands should be 'jazz hands) ... either way, hands up or down, he is the most talented man i've ever known. he sings. he dances. he acts. he directs. he teaches. he leaps tall tales in a single bound. and as big as his talent is, his heart is about 2000 times bigger. and from the moment we met, i knew we would be friends for life (not counting the ten years where i disappeared ...) he's the sun to my moon. the horton to my whoo. he is the cheese to my macaroni ... the will to my grace ... and he just might be the love of my life.

5. lynda mcgraw ... will be surprised to find herself on this list. we're new friends. which i love. (as we get older, it's so much harder to make friends, don't you think?) lynda and i work together at crate. she is strong and smart, has the greatest smile and never shys away from calling a spade a spade, or an ass an ass. i love and respect that about her. it also makes me fiercely protective of her. bravery and honesty are not always valued in women. she gets that. and stands up to the boys anyway. she is strong and funny and isn't at all afraid to work hard. she sets the best example for all the 'girls' who work with us. the boys, too. plus, her hair is awesome!

6. megan temple ... has pretty awesome hair, too. she is another 'new' friend...and one of the 'girls' i work with at crate. i could write a hundred things i love about meg, but never as well as i managed to write for her birthday. so, go back and read the birthday 'note' i wrote for her. but, if you want a good story or two ... meg and i once got drunk at disneyland. well, technically it was california adventure where we started drinking, but then we made michael sneak rum into the park and we made dole whip and rum cocktails and watched the fireworks. it was one of those perfect moments we rarely get in this lifetime and i am so happy i got to share it with meg. i was the only person, aside from family, she invited to her graduation - i couldn't have been prouder if i had actually been a member of her family. she's worked so hard and looked so lovely and grown up. it was meg who took me on my first 'girls night out' after my split and my arrival in california and we danced until the bar closed and ate a corn dog on the sidewalk while we waited for our ride home. meg promises to kick any man's ass who might dare break my heart. i believe her. the boys do, too.

7. mike hoog ... was my first boy friend. not 'boyfriend.' boy/friend. he was the brother i always wanted. he looked after me ... sat with me at lunch, lent me his baseball jacket (seriously, was there ever a jacket warmer than those niwot baseball jackets?), gave me advice about boys. he is how i learned how to love a man without being 'in love.' a valuable lesson and one for which i am most grateful.

8. lynn ostein ... lynn was my roommate for my freshman and sophomore years in college. i remember walking into our room that first day and meeting lynn and her parents. i remember how surprised all three of them were that my mother had let me pack up my volkswagen and head for texas. all by myself. (truth? it surprised me, too.) but seeing myself the way they saw me that day changed my life. it was strange and scary to be so far from home, but lynn and i were lucky to have each other ... figuring out together what and who we wanted to be when we grew up. and, we had the most fun! ... discovering a new city, driving around in my volkswagen ... bill misch and andy crider ... dancing at calamities ... playing quarters at mama's ... free chocolate shakes at chili's ... spending every free moment with fish and john and joe ... phi mu ... the lambda chis ... winning the airband jam ... and her fear that if she took pepto bismol for a hangover she'd puke pink (we were phi mu's; weren't we SUPPOSED to puke pink?!) lynn and i were inseparable. until we weren't. i only sort of remember why, but i fully remember being miserable about it. even as i was too stubborn to change my mind. i am really sorry about that. it's one of my true regrets in this life.

9. steve hearst ... is the funniest thing on two feet. at least, that's what i thought when i was sixteen years old. we were on the speech team together - which meant lots of early mornings and late nights and never-ending bus rides to the middle-of-nowhere colorado ... and when steve was there, it meant lots and lots of laughing. he, lee reichert, marcie and i would huddle together near the back of the bus and act like idiots. there was the cheyenne tournament and the 'device' - an incredibly large dildo that was a team tradition - which steve and lee managed to pass on to me by hiding the thing in my luggage. my mother was not impressed. there was the 'm-a-r-t-i-n g-r-i-s-wold' song, sung to the tune of the 'mickey mouse club.' but my favorite memory was the tournament at the university of denver, where steve and i searched for amusement between rounds and rather than do what every other teenager in america might have done (have sex ... smoke pot ... get someone to buy us beer), instead, we went for the joke. we went in search of a copy machine and steve made photocopies of his face, which he autographed and distributed to fellow competitors. i still have one. (funny ... i kept that, but not 'the device.') oh, oh, oh ... i lied! my favorite memory was the night we were bored (at least i think we were bored, i don't think he had a crush on my the way i did on him.) and we made out in his car. i mean really MADE OUT - fogged up the windows and everything. that single, simple, innocent kissing incident is the reason i equate humor with sexiness in a man. if he can't bring the funny, he doesn't stand a chance - i don't care how hot he is. seriously. thank you for that, steve. you've saved me from what surely could have been a lot of really hot sex. and you're the reason i always, always, always go for the joke.

10. shannon matson ... i have been crazy about shannon since before i met her- when, over martinis, dan said, 'oh my god, you and shannon will be so dangerous together. you have to meet her.' (and then, over martinis, i did.) 'you'll love her!' he said. and i do. when people ask me how long we've been friends, i just say, 'since forever.' there's no point in counting the years. and when they ask me how we met, i tell them i played the less perfect version of her in a play, once. and it's funny - they ask me the 'how' and the 'how long' - but never the why. if someone ever did ask 'why' we became friends, i'd have to say it's her unique point of view and her generous nature and her mysteriously sassy sense of style. i haven't talked to her in forever and a day. life keeps us apart and everytime i think to call or write, i think there's too much to say and not enough time and she'll be busy with the boys or traveling or doing anything other than wanting to listen to me, but maybe i'm wrong. i often am.

11. suzanne king ... if i'm the less perfect version of shannon, suzanne is the more perfect version of me. people are always confusing us - which i can't understand, because i don't think we look at ALL alike - but it's good for me. see, suzanne is the nicest person you'll ever want to meet. she is loyal and kind and good and true. she's talented and silly and works hard and keeps your secrets. she picks great karaoke songs, she can almost always hold her liquor and everyone who knows her LOVES her. i'm proud and happy to be on that list.

12. kevin pitts ... was my boyfriend when i was a senior in high school. we met at a speech tournament when our teams played 'family feud' against one another in between rounds. i can't remember which one of us gave up our phone number first, i just remember it was written on a page in a gq magazine (which, by the way, he looked as if he'd stepped out of - with his bowtie and his pouty lips). i loved kevin. my friends loved kevin. my mom LOVED, LOVED, LOVED kevin. (to this day, she asks me if i've heard from him and i think she secretly wishes i would have married him.) he was sweet and romantic and treated me better than any boy ever had (or any man has since ... until now). he cooked. he sent flowers. he made my friends his friends. he was the perfect fairytale boyfriend. but i was seventeen and not nearly as smart as i thought i was and traded the fairytale for frat parties and broke both our hearts in the process. and if i'm honest, i'm not entirely sure that the hundreds of heartbreaks i've suffered since haven't been my own way of punishing myself for that. still, time has a way of circling back upon itself and i know, now, that he is warm and safe and well-loved and happy as can be. and so i don't mind sharing what might be my favorite memory of kevin ... for our first date, we were supposed to see a play his mother was in. i had too long to think about it and i got cold feet and made up some excuse as to why i couldn't go. but something in his voice woke up something inside of me and so i got in the car and drove to loveland. it was, of course, too late to go to the show, so we bundled up and took a long walk under a perfectly clear colorado sky - the kind you only see in december. we talked about school and friends and our families, but mostly, we just leaned against one another and watched our breath crystallize in the cold night air. sweet. innocent. lovely. to this day, i still bundle up, take walks and stare up into the december sky. and when i do, i remember him and smile.

13. laurie taylor ... is not technically a friend, she's my sister. and if i'd known how cool she'd be when she grew up, i'd have been a lot nicer to her when she was younger. my niwot friends will remember her ... she was small and blonde and always around. but that's because we were the only kids i knew then who only had one parent and that one parent had to work and so laurie got to tag along with me way more than any of us would have liked. there are so many more stories i could tell about laurie t. than about anyone else ... we went on her honeymoon together (you know you're drunk if you can't get into a bar in cancun!) ... she married me (but i don't hold it against her). i married her (the second time - which ought to be the last.). we laugh until we can't breathe whenever we talk on the phone or spend time together. the last time i saw her, we went to see the police and elvis costello at the hollywood bowl. we drank what amounts to a trough of wine, sang every song at the top of our lungs, and made great friends with the ladies at the back of the bus (they thought we were really fun for 'white girls!'). and when sting walked out on stage at sunset to join elvis in 'allison,' i had a giant glass of wine in one hand and laurie t's hand in my other and i knew the stars had aligned and i was at the absolute right place at the right time. my life finally clicked into place. thank you, laurie t. i love you.

14. jenni leamon ... people think jenni and i are friends because we work together. that's not it. it's hard to say exactly why i think. to reduce it to reason would be akin to looking for the logic in gravity. or the sunrise. if i had to, maybe i'd say it's that i don't have to worry at all when i'm talking to her that she won't get it or that she'll get bored ... maybe i'd say it's the way i can act like an idiot and she'll call me 'awesome' and never make me apologize for not being a quiet, boring girl ... maybe i'd say it's because we have the same restlessness, the same dissatisfaction with the default mode, the same idiot tendency to keep getting it wrong - even if only because it's the only way to get it a little less wrong each time ... maybe i'd say it's just nice to know that we paddle just as hard and at least sorta in the same direction. but i think the real reason we're friends is because it is the natural order of things. like gravity. or the sunrise. without jenni, the earth wouldn't turn and stuff wouldn't grow and life as i know it would have no life in it at all. oh. and we work together.

15. christopher bruinsslot ... i can say whatever i want about christopher because he'll never read it. he can't figure out facebook. he hasn't the time, nor the inclination. he has a thousand more important things in front of him. his business. his friends. his daughters. his kitchen. me. he is lovely in just about every way. he's tall and bald and has a beard and big hands and a beautiful smile. he walks with a limp. he's smart and loyal and makes a mean cocktail. and he cooks. i mean REALLY cooks - makes just about everything from scratch. which, now that i know him, makes sense. he's all about making the effort, making things better than they were before - even if it takes a little longer. he has great respect for people with passion and vision and a good sense of humor. and he loves people who can be as loud as he is. and he loves the people i love, so there's that. he is great father. and he not only likes me, he totally gets me. and there is no better feeling in the world than to know that you are gotten. i don't know how i got so lucky. still ... i am impossibly grateful for that particular brand of evolutionary magic ... for leading me here ... for holding me up ... and for landing us in one another's path. for however long it lasts.

thank you. all of you. for loving me and for letting me love you and for making me the person that i am today. i may act like i have faith and like that faith never ends ... but i really just have friends.

... me

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