Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ice Capades

Last week I read at the Reconstruction Room, a reading series with a new theme every week. Wait, I'm ahead of myself...

(I'm all about ellipsis lately)

Every other Wednesday, a wonderful reading series called "Reconstruction Room" takes place. I've been going fairly regularly for about a year. Finally (finally!) I got up the guts to ask one of the curators if I could read. He said yes.

so.

Last week I read at the Reconstruction Room....wait...

I wanted to read at the Rec Room for a while, but didn't have the nerve to ask. Then (then!) I saw the listing of themes for May and found a night about letters. The official title was "Letters to a Nobleman and his Sister." ahhhh, I thought. That there is for me. So I wrote to the curator and asked him if I could read. He said yes.

So.

See, when I was about 13/14 years old, three events occurred that changed. my. life. forever.

1) I heard "Ring of Fire"
2) I was watching "48 Hours" and one of the correspondents read part of "On the Road"
3) I saw "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit"

The first two events need no explanation. The third, well...

The movie is awesome.
In it, we see Delores VanCartier (Whoopi Goldberg),

(note: in the first movie she was a lounge singer who had witnessed a murder and was put in a convent as part of the witness protection program, at the convent she turned the choir into high-class super awesome singing machine...hilarity ensued)

now she is famous, happy, rich.

So the nuns from the convent find Delores, they have taken to teaching in an inner-city high school and they need Delores to-you guessed it-turn shit into sunshine!

So Delores gets "back in the habit" and pretends to be a nun so she can teach the kids to sing. Like I said, a w e s o m e.

There is a scene in the movie when Delores (as her alter-ego, Sister Mary Clarence) is talking to troubled teen/kick-ass singer Rita Mae Watson (Lauren Hill-wut?!) because Rita Mae loves to sing, but won't be in the choir (bad attitude/her mom says singing will take her nowhere-except to the grammys! stupid mom). So Rita does this whole inspirational speech. Clip here (you will find inspiration toward the end of the clip):




So I see this and I think, wow. yeah. that's me (only with writing).

'Round about the same time, I started writing letters in notebooks that I had lying around. Letter's to God, ex-boyfriends, Abraham Lincoln (note: if you tell anyone that you're a writer, the only gift they can think to give is a notebook...or a pen...how about money? Writers like money too!).

All these years later, I'm still writing letters in notebooks. Letters to God, ex-boyfriends, Abraham Lincoln...and I decided to read one of these letters at the Rec Room.

Note: I had never, ever, ever, before that night, read or even shown (shown?) one of these letters to anyone. ever. so I was nervous. Very nervous.

This is the text of the letter (I'm going to take some pics of the original and post them later) written shorty after moving to Chicago when I lived in an apartment that had a cage outside the door (the door was in a dark, scary alley):

Dear Whoopi,

I live in a city of rats. They play and poison in the alley and I make a face and turn away.

I live in a city of shadows. They get their fix in my alley. They trace themselves in the light on my kitchen window. A spark that flickers and I sit at the table and watch these shadows bend and laugh and shapes determined through the iron bars that seperate.

I live in a stranger’s city. But I suppose that’s every city, isn’t it?

I think you must feel the same say most days. I think you must wake up and try to place yourself and when you go to sleep, do you question where you’ve been? Is that something I can ask? I’m sorry if I’ve offended.

A song came on the radio and I thought of your smile. I mean, it’s the kind of smile that could just crush any dark. That’s a good smile.

So, say you’re Rilke and I’m that Franz guy, would you say the same to me? Would you tell me to wake up and sing? But I can’t carry a tune.

But the ability to keep a melody didn’t stop you (no offense) but, you know, I can tell, in that movie, when you’re standing in front of the choir and your whole face is a light and you’re smiling that smile and I just know that this is where you belong and the notes don’t matter.

I mean, who can be a stranger in a place like that? I think that is why we sing, that is why we sing together, I mean. You know, when you get to that place where you can get free and let go and no one will be able to hear your voice through the rumble of all of those other voices.

It’s the only reason I ever went to church. To get to that place where everything falls away and all I know is music. Because home is first and foremost the song and if the song comes from that place of wanting to be anonymous? Then that is the song that will lead me home.

I think of you and first, I think of your smile, that fantastic smile, and second I think of music that could make me forget that anything else ever existed. I forget the sky. I forget stars, mountains, oceans, rivers, trees. I forget that I am in a building, a shelter to keep out the cold. I forget that there is such a thing as cold.

I think of you and I think of the kind of music that can only be made by a choir, by voices lifting voices and all that exists is the sound and because it is everything, it is beautiful and because it is beautiful, it is nothing. It is nothing at all. And if it is nothing, there is no need to worry, no reason to doubt and that is when you smile. That fucking fantastic smile.

Anyway, I hope you’re doing well.

Your friend,
Mary


There you go.

okay, one more clip. The triumphant "Joyful, Joyful." (thanks, You Tube!)


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