Space Angels

I like to pretend that I do not live in the world’s longest running I Love Lucy episode.  Pretending allows me to do things like go outside and interact with people. If I worried about the next pratfall or broad joke at my expense, I’d just rock in place and never leave the house giggling maniacally at things like cats landing in boxes on YouTube for hours on end. It would be safer.  Instead, I do my best to ignore the film crew and try to avoid the next joke they’ve got in store.  I don’t want them to cue the canned laughter, because I stupidly fell for another one of their tricks. It’s for the better.

Last night at 2am I had a brilliant idea.  I’d go to the store!  I mean honestly, how is shopping not fun at 2am, I ask you?  All of those wide empty aisles beckoning you over for a leisurely stroll.  No one there to elbow you or crowd you out from retrieving your favorite item or seeing what’s on sale at that colorful display that may need to leap into your basket.  Sadly though, there are only a few stores in the area that can accommodate a late night shopping fix and my preferred grocery store isn’t among them. That left me with a choice of three 24-hour Wal-Marts all within 5 miles of my house.  I know, how is that not living the dream?  (In oh so many ways, but at 2am, with about 2 hours of sleep it seemed, in that moment, like a mighty fine idea.  Remember, I don’t judge you when you’re punch drunk and in search of a store.)

I get there. I shop. I chat with one of the few clerks on the floor and then I head out with my purchases.  Pretty uneventful. I head to my car, pop the trunk, throw my Wal-Mart booty inside, put away my basket, and indulge an OCD moment of making sure all the baskets are properly pushed in and equally spaced apart, then I force myself to let it go and head back to my car.  I reach into my pocket and my keys are gone.  I dig through my purse, no keys.  I look under the car, no keys.  I walk back to the cart and look inside, no keys.  Clearly, my keys have to be in the trunk.

This is still not my I Love Lucy moment.

I dig through my brain searching for an easy solution.  No one is awake.  No one can get me to my spare key at home.  I’m on my own.  I don’t accept that I’ve thrown the key in the trunk, but clearly that’s the only thing that could have happened. My internal rolodex spins around and I decide to call Pop-A-Lock.  I call.  Then I sit on a bench in the entry way and people watch.  Lots of interesting people come into Wal-Mart at 3am.  I make up stories about a few as I try to entertain myself while waiting. What drove them here at this time?  From the women who look like they’ve just gotten off work to the guy who kept walking in and out in his pajamas.  I notice one guy keeps coming in and out with different groups of people.  We exchanged nods each time.  I think, “guy, if you’re going to do something in the Wal-Mart at 3am, please do me the courtesy of keeping it inside – I just want to go home.”

The Pop-A-Lock guy appears and after setting off my angry little car alarm we break into the trunk.  No key.  I dig through the bags, slinging items all over the trunk. No key. We retrace my steps.  No key.  We look under the car, carefully search the parking lot to where I stored the basket. No key.  We look around the baskets.  No key.  A disembodied voice says, “your key is over there.”  Weird.  We look.  No key. “No,  the other side.”  We look. No key.  “It’s right there.”  Where?  I look at the mini-van and all I see is the outline of a head in the tinted window.  Finally, the door opens and the young guy who had walked into Wal-Mart several times with different groups of folks appears.  “Right there.”  Sure enough, dangling from the bottom of the basket is my key.  I thank the guy and he smiles broadly.  “You’re the lady from the Wal-Mart.  You were stranded.”  Yes. He smiles as he’s figured out my story. His smile grows even bigger as he sees the Pop-A-Lock guy and he greets him like he’s just seen his favorite super hero appear and descend on the scene, “WOW!! You’re the Pop-A-Lock guy!!” Jake, my lock popping/key hunting hero beams back and says, “yes, I am.”  The young guy takes a step back as he stands in awe of Jake.  Meanwhile, I’m gushing thanks to everyone, because I get to go home.  The young guy finally recomposes himself and says, “let me give you my card.  I’m a musician and I’m also really good at finding things.” Jake gives him a pen and tells him he can keep it.  The look on the kid’s face is as if Superman is standing before him and just handed him a long lost Kryptonian artifact.  “If you ever need things found, here’s my email.”  I take his information and get the world’s biggest hug.

The mini-van door slides back again and another man joins us.  He hands me a flyer and encourages me to read it saying, “you can get more if you’re interested, just look inside.”  I agree to do that and then dash to my car practically hopping up and down in joy as I sing out my thanks to my parking lot heroes.

I get home and look at the flyer.

The actual flyer.

The actual flyer from last night.

I accept (though not truly embrace) the fact that since it’s me, it couldn’t be a normal “yeah, I got my car unlocked and drove home” kind of story.  So, with that I say…

Thank you for saving me, Space Angels!

How to Kill an Angel

I killed an angel. Yes, I did and I’m afraid it wasn’t just one. I may have killed a bushel or a herd or a pod or a flock – flock sounds about right. Ok, I killed a flock of angels over the past couple of weeks and with that news, I hang my head in shame.

It started with my sketch writing class right after we wrote our very first sketch and then it continued when I wrote a revised version. See, in class there’s only a couple of rules and they are: “Do not apologize for what you write. Do not put down your work. When you do, an angel dies.” (When I first read the phrase “put down” I thought, “Really, I have to carry my notebook with me now? Is this some bizarre sketch writing hazing prank?”) Just to be clear, it wasn’t that I was purposefully hunting angels with my poor disposition. In fact, it happened quite innocently. We had 30 minutes to see how far we could on our first writing assignment and then BAM the time was over and it was my turn to read. Well, the laughs weren’t coming – not at all. I think the only positive sound I heard was maybe the sound of an appreciative snort, but that was it and it could have been in my head. The next thing you know, “I’m sorry” slipped right out of my mouth as I hung my head in shame. Then, I followed with “I’m sorry” because I realized I had just killed an angel. When I realized a second one had plummeted to the ground I mumbled, “I’m oh $#D D@MN!7 BAH!” and sunk into my chair mad at myself for nearly getting three before I was finished.

By the time I got home, I completely forgot about one of the rules and when asked “how did your first class go?” I shredded myself and my piece. You couldn’t get me to shut up. It was all very dramatic. Then I re-read the class rules and saw the “don’t put down your work” part. More swearing ensued. Thankfully swearing doesn’t kill angels or you could say goodbye to your personal guardians.

In class two, I made it through the whole class without commenting on what I’d written. Angels rejoiced! But on the way out of the door a friend politely asked if I was having fun. Oh boy. Those angels, who moments before had been high-fiving one another for dodging the, “Beth has something negative to say about her writing,” bullet started dropping left and right. Two improv teachers words of wisdom popped into my head. One is Tom asking “Are you having fun, Beth? Find the fun!” and then Shana, which had to do with how you present yourself to your audience after you feel like you’ve done something poorly. I guess it was a self-defense move. I didn’t want my friend to think I had any illusion that I could write and I wanted to express that I was embarrassed for myself. I shouldn’t do that. It puts people in an awkward position of having to try to make me feel better and that’s not fair.
I think there are two things that make this class exceptionally difficult for me. One is that I am the poorest sketch writer in the class. That’s not me being self-deprecating, that’s just me being completely out of my writing element. (It’s a class, we’re there to learn, blahblahblah.) I’m coming at this thing from the back of the pack and it’s really hard. My brain doesn’t think this way and where some people miss instructions like “write in first person,” I can’t actually tell you what my sketch is about. Wow. That’s a huge ego blow to find out that you don’t know what you’re writing about. I wish I had the other person’s problem of first vs. third problem. That’s easier to tackle. “Beth, what is this about?” “Kids coming of age.” “What is this about?” “Kids having an adventure and discovering a truth.” “Beth, what is this about?” “Fuck. I haven’t a clue.” “You have to know what you’re writing about or the audience won’t understand.”

The second one is that I shake uncontrollably. I can’t tell you what’s going on there. I was hoping that in the second class where other people would read my sketch that I’d be more in control (we cast the parts for the characters in the sketch and you get to hear how your words play out), but even then I started shaking. I didn’t read a single word and I was twitching uncontrollably. The hard part is I have to take suggestions when it’s over and I desperately wanted to type them into my laptop, but I physically couldn’t without drawing a lot of attention to myself, so I threw a notebook down and drove pen into paper so it would allow me to more naturally curl up. I used the pressure coming from my fist down on that pen to keep my hand steady. Even when I was cast for other people’s work, I had a slight tremble. I don’t think it was as noticeable, but it was there lurking in the background. This past year, I’ve had three performances where I’ve been on stage acting or singing and the shaking never manifested. Sure, it could be that I’m always there with a supporting cast or that the lights are dim and I can’t see the audience well, but still I’ve never shaken. I’ve never been bothered that I’m on stage. I’ve also never shaken when I’ve danced before a room full of people like in college when I was in modern dance or later on when I performed in tap shows. Maybe having been in dance recitals when I was younger created some safe pocket in my mind that said “the stage is ok” “the stage is safe”, but I’ve never felt that safe when reading. Who knows? I once asked in a class if I could just sit down, because I was making my class feel very uncomfortable from my visible shaking. There are probably several angles we could look at this from – anything from genetics, psychology, and environment to nutrition and we’ll still end up with me just being a twitchy weird individual. (It’s like living a dream! A crazy dream where I’m the sad sack everyone pities and I get supportive pats. Who doesn’t want that after stating “I want to be a princess! I want to be a ballerina! I want to be some twitchy fuck.”)

So, basically my flailing about at the bottom of the class combined with my involuntary spasms leads to angels falling from the skies. I’m sorry angels. I’m not actually gunning for you. I just get wrapped up in me and the next thing you know THWUMP. I’ll work on that. While I work on the not twitching and not killing angle, I’ll also work on giving myself a break and not abusing my work no matter how much my sketches suck.


Errr… right, working on that.