Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week Forty-Seven

Event:  Took an Improv Class

Director:  "Ok, class, someone yell out an emotion and someone yell out a profession."

Guy #1:  "Um, what about joyful."

Guy #2:  "Mortician!"

Director:  "Perfect.  A joyful mortician.  Now let's see.  I want you and you up to the front" (pointing to me).  "And....action!"

Me:  "Oh crap."

Welcome to improv.

Last week I got online and did a search for Improv classes.  The first one I found seemed pretty promising - the website said it was perfect for beginners, would guarantee fun and would improve listening skills, confidence and team-building.  I decided to send an email to the contact listed on the site, just make sure this was in fact a class for true beginners and no previous experience was required.  (I've never done improv, nor have I ever "acted" before.  Well, as long as I don't count the acting debut I made as a cabbage patch kid in a school play in the early 80's).  I digress.  Soon I received an email back saying not to worry - the only thing I needed to bring was a check and a positive attitude.  Bring it.

The best part about the Improv class was that it was being held in a Sunday school classroom in a Lutheran church.  I was slightly conflicted - surely God wouldn't let me fail miserably in a church, but this also means I would have to keep my improvisations G-rated.  I worried about that until one of my peers dropped the F-Bomb with enough passion you thought she was trying to get an Oscar nomination.  We all took a deep breath, paused a brief moment, said a prayer and moved on.  It was during that moment of silence we discovered the children's choir rehearsing for their Christmas concert across the hall.  Oh Holy Night.

Within the first 15 minutes of the 90 minute class, we were improvising.  I quickly realized this was NOT a class for beginner anything - I was being forced to act out my favorite hobby, imitate the person's mannerisms standing next to me, complete a story that the guy in front of me started with the theme of "space invaders" (seriously? I was living in an episode of the "Big Bang Theory") and before I knew it we were acting out two and four person scenes in front of the entire group.  We were given topics, categories, emotions, character types, professions, predicaments, situations, locations...all of which had to be perfected and acted out with only seconds to prep and no time to discuss with our partners.  At first, I found myself completely frozen - sort of like those people who totally suck at Catch Phrase.  You know when it's their turn all they can get out is, "Uhhh...Well...Hmmm...Let's see..."  But finally, about an hour and 20 minutes into the class, I gained confidence, started listening and put my faith in team-building and suddenly found myself...acting.  I went from the quiet, intimidated, shy girl who couldn't come up with anything creative, to a girl about to write her own ticket to Second City.  In my last "skit" I completely hijacked the performance and forced all 4 actors to focus on my character in a scene I created.  I was equal parts Tina Fey and Ellen with a pinch of Carol Burnett and a dollop of Lucille Ball.  I was on fire.  Or so I thought.

When the class ended, I walked out with the Director who asked me if I had ever taken acting classes before.  Thinking he was going to respond by saying something like, "Wow - you're a real natural."  Or, "You're kidding me!  You have some serious talent."  Instead, when I told him this was my first time, he just responded, "Huh."  Not sure if that meant he was keeping his cool about his new starlet or if he was thinking, "Yeah, that was obvious."  Either way, this joyful mortician looking for alien life forms while sitting on the bus reading Vogue magazine drinking a dirty martini holding the hand of Superman who's about to skyrocket from his seat to land on planet Mars to capture the alien and save the going back for more...

End scene.  Fade to black.  Roll credits.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week Forty-Six

Event:  Rescued a cat from a tree

Last week as I sat and pondered what adventures might be in store for me for the remainder of the year, one that didn't make the list was the following:  "Rescue cat from Tree."

Thursday night I was out in the backyard with my dog when out of the darkness I heard a cat meowing.  I thought it was a little odd since none of my neighbors have cats, but I dismissed it and carried on about my business.  Friday night I opened the back door to let the dog out and once again I heard meowing.  The fact that I heard it two nights in a row coming from the same spot led me to believe either the cat was injured or stuck.  For the record, I'm a huge animal lover, but felines around the world know that if they come within 10 feet of me I'm a walking Benadryl commercial.  I am deathly allergic.  So imagine my internal struggle on this chilly Friday night - it's cold but I want to help, it's late but it might freeze to death, I'm deathly allergic but what if it dies on my watch...Dang it!  I must go help because I believe in karma.  Two weeks my 80-pound dog jumped out of the window of the backseat of my car while I was driving 35 mph down a busy street and was not hurt.  Karma.  Must save kitty.

I got a flashlight and pointed it in the direction of where the meowing was coming from hoping to find a cat just frolicking in the grass and not stuck in the jaws of a Mountain Lion.  I found neither.  Instead, I saw the glowing eyes of a full grown cat stuck in the nook of a tree a mere 20 feet off the ground.  The tree of course, was just on the other side of my fence, so technically in my neighbor's yard.  But, that didn't stop me.  I took my flashlight, grabbed a 6-foot ladder and quietly walked into my neighbor's yard up to the tree.  As I approached, the meowing got louder and my desire for a successful rescue grew more intense.  I propped the ladder against the tree and started to climb.  It was at that moment I found myself saying, "What the hell am I doing?  What if someone thinks I'm a robber and shoots me?  The headline would read, "Woman allergic to cats gets shot while trying to save cat."  Do I really think this cat is going to miraculously leap into my arms?  If it does, what if it scratches me and I get rabies?  What if I fall off of the ladder, hit my head and pass out - would we both freeze to death?  What if I get stuck in the tree?"  So many things could go wrong as I stood on the third rung of the ladder only to realize I needed about 3 more ladders to even get close.  That's when it hit me - I need milk!

I went back into the house and poured some milk into a bowl.  I even heated it up a few seconds because I'm betting cats prefer warm milk (seriously?).  When I reached the tree, warm milk in tow, I found myself telling the cat that there was milk at the base of the tree so it can come down now.  (Please someone check me into a clinic).  Surprisingly, that didn't work.  That's when I went into full-on MacGyver mode.  I've got it!  I went back into my garage and grabbed a bucket and a rope.  I am not making this up.  I tied the bucket to one end of the rope and attempted to throw the bucket up over the branch (did I mention it was 20 feet high?)  That was completely unsuccessful so I decided to throw the other end of the rope over the branch but the rope was too light so I tied a few sticks to the end of it.  Four attempts and a smack in the face later I had one end of the rope over the branch.  Whew.  As I pulled the rope I raised the bucket to the branch near where the cat was sitting.  Perfect!  Now the cat will walk over to the bucket, hop in and I will lower it down to safety to the warm milk.  Shockingly, this, too, was unsuccessful.  OMG I'm going to the Looney Bin.  Frustrated, frozen and fearing for my safety (dogs have started to bark throughout the neighborhood) I decided to call it quits.  As I began to pack up my things, I attempted to get my rope/bucket/stick creation out of the tree, only to get it caught on a branch.  Now the rope was hanging in mid air - with sticks attached to one end and a bucket attached to the other.  Super.  My neighbors are going to think I'm into witchcraft.  I am certifiable.

Walking back towards the house, the cat meowed even louder, as if to say, "Don't leave me!"  As my heart was breaking, I had one more idea.  I decided to call a 24-hour Emergency Vet Clinic, who told me to call the fire department.  I called my friends at the fire department and wouldn't you know it they don't rescue cats from trees!  I mean really.  What's the world coming to?  What, is there an App for that?  Sheesh.  They told me to call Animal Control, which I did, and no one answered. 

Saturday morning I woke to find my furry friend still nestled in the nook of the tree, barely moving.  I quickly called Animal Control again, who said they'd be right out.  When they arrived, I was saddened to learn they too, don't climb trees to rescue animals.  WHAT?  It was then I decided the fire department or Animal Control or both would surely rescue a PERSON stuck in a tree, so I was going up.  But I needed a taller ladder.  Four neighbors, three ladders, a can of cat food, a catch pole and an hour later we were celebrating a successful rescue.  Our sweet little kitty was safe and sound, eating and purring and before we knew it, he trotted off, like he knew exactly which direction home was. 

As I was putting things away in my garage I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.  Low and behold, my furry friend had scurried into my garage, and was curled up looking dazed and confused.  I went inside, got some milk (warmed it up of course) and sat on the ground while he drank, purred, drank some more and snuggled with me.  It didn't take long before my allergies had me looking like I just lost a boxing match, but soon my little rescue project started walked out of the garage and made his way down the street.  I followed him to the corner and watched as he walked up to a house and curled up on the front porch. Home Sweet Home.

Ahhh Karma.

And then he got attacked by a Mountain Lion.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Week Forty-Five

Event:  Got a tattoo

A rose.  A butterfly.  Barbed wire.  Sorority letters.  A dolphin.  A ladybug.  A unicorn.  All very good options for tattoos, but none of them have ever inspired me enough to go out and permanently get one tattooed on my body.  Not many of my friends have tattoos so I've never felt much pressure to get one.  Until now.  Motivated by wanting to do something I've never done before, combined with some very encouraging (and mildly inked) co-workers, I decided to go for it.

Given I've had some time to think about it, I knew exactly what I wanted.  I had mapped it out on paper and even used markers to do a practice run trying out different color options, designs and locations on my body.  The design, while complex, was something I knew I would not regret and I was confident with the right expert artist it would be something I will treasure for a lifetime.

Friday night a co-worker of mine won a happy hour at Howl at the Moon, conveniently located across the street from the tattoo parlor.  We decided a drink and some apps would do us some good, but instead of having one drink and snacking, I had two drinks and skipped the food altogether.  No one told me you can't get a tattoo if you've been drinking.  (Actually, everyone told me, but I needed the liquid courage).  Shortly after slamming down my second drink, the five of us were jumping over puddles in the pouring rain, giggling like school girls, nervous and excited about what was in store.  We approached the door and exploded into the tattoo parlor, only to be stopped in our tracks as we looked around the dimly lit room filled with metal sculptures, axes, animal skulls and a stuffed zebra head.  Ozzy Osborn was playing overhead and suddenly I had to tinkle.  We were greeted by a couple of folks tattooed from neck to toe who probably took one look at us and thought, "Oh great.  Here come the valley girls. I bet they're the ones who made an appointment."  Before I could even open my mouth, a third guy shot out from behind a secret door on the wall and suddenly I was frozen.  Not only could I not remember my name, but I couldn't have told you my bra size, where I live or why I was standing there at this very moment.  There was so much ink staring at me I didn't know where to look.  All of the lessons I learned about not pointing and staring went out the window.  I wanted to study every inch of their tattooed sleeves, their necks, their hands...I wanted to ask what hurt the most, I wanted to see if everything was spelled correctly, I wanted to see if they had roses, butterflies or dolphins.  Lucky for all of us, I pulled it together so we didn't make more of a spectacle.  "Hi, we have an appointment for three of us at 7:30."  Welcome valley girls. 

After a brief consultation, we had to fill out a release form confirming, "No Sir, I am not pregnant, I don't have any allergies to ink, I'm not on any prescription drugs and I am NOT under the influence of alcohol.  I promise.  Girl Scouts Honor."  (Long Island Iced Teas, yes.  Alcohol, no.  Oh wait...)  Moments later, I was being escorted back into a different room with my assigned artist.  As I entered through a small hallway, I looked up and saw a sign that said, "Sterile. Electric. Tattooing."  Oh thank God - this place is both sterile AND electric?  I suddenly feel so much better.

Two of my co-workers had already gone in to get prepped for their tattoos and when I arrived there were three chairs right next to each other, so we got to sit together and cheer each other on.  While we giggled, cheered, clapped and took pictures, I feared the other customers weren't feeling the love.  I wanted to shout across the room, "We've got tatt'ed spirit, yes we do, we've got tatt'ed spirit, how 'bout you?"  But that might have resulted in a girl fight and I'll just state for the record I would not have won. 

I digress.  As I sat in my chair, I reviewed the outline of what I wanted with my artist.  I had it mapped out on paper and even had a marker to properly identify the color I wanted.  He looked at me funny, but took my sketch, dipped it in something and transferred my exact drawing onto my ankle.  I confirmed the location and the color and we were off.  It was at that moment I noticed the music had changed to Hall and Oats and suddenly a certain calm came over me.  Oh wait, that was all the blood rushing to my head as I took one look at the tattoo gun, but either way, I was cool, calm and collected.

Two and a half seconds later I had my first tattoo!  Surprisingly, it wasn't painful at all.  In fact, getting a flu shot was more painful.  Admiring the fine work of the artist, he tried to talk me into doing more, but I was pleased with the life-size, perfectly irregular, exact replica of...


I am now officially one Bad Ass Mother F@%$&er.  Sorry, I've always wanted to say that. 

P.S.  I'd like to give a special shout out to the good people at Mercy Seat.  Thanks for the memories!

Only, there's one small problem.  It looks like a mole. 

Oh well, at least it's spelled right.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Week Forty-Four

Event:  Hung out at a Fire Station

All my life I have pictured a fire station as a multi-level building, buzzing with 20 or 30 fire fighters running around (some without their shirts) playing pool, cooking, working out (without their shirts), watching TV...just waiting for that fateful bell to ring.  In my mind, they're hanging out, playing pranks, hazing the rookie, playing with a Dalmatian, just waiting for that bell.  And when the bell finally rings, I imagined mass chaos of firefighters jumping out of the shower, sprinting out of the gym, scrambling out of their bunk only to slide down a pole into the fire engine bay.  There, more chaos ensues as they frantically put on their gear, jump on the moving fire engine and ride off to save a little girl from a burning building.

Apparently, I've been living in a motion picture dream state because my fire station experience was anything like what I had imagined. 

My sister and I had an appointment to tour a fire station near my house.  As we walked up to the side door and rang the bell to get in, I noticed there weren't any fire trucks in the garage.  Bummer.  We were greeted by the Battalion Chief who quickly told us not only were no trucks present, there actually weren't any fire fighters present, either.  I needed a moment.  The truck I can get over.  But no fire fighters?  It was like hearing there would be no presents at Christmas, no candy at Halloween, no green beer at St. Patrick's Day.  Devastated, I pulled it together only to hear him utter the words, "You should stop by the fire station down the street.  Both trucks are there and lots of my guys are on duty."

My white freckly legs couldn't move fast enough.  Before I knew it, we found ourselves at the home of Engine 23 and some of the best looking fire fighters in town (well, at least the three that I saw).  And as it turned out, one of those good looking fire fighters on duty was a friend of ours so we got the VIP tour.  We got to see where the men eat, sleep, shower and play.  Plus, both the engine truck and the ladder truck were in the bay, and we got to see inside every nook and cranny from bumper to bumper.  We learned that there are like 5 different types of hoses, a million different pressure gauges and air tanks that are built into the seat so all they have to do is sit, push a lever and their tanks are attached to their backs.  I mean this stuff was high tech!  I learned that fire fighters have to be in their gear and on the truck in 60 seconds, so I decided to give it a try.  My fire fighting friend allowed me to put on his gear, and at first I thought I'd time myself (I mean how hard can it be) but considering it took me 60 seconds just to get my shoes OFF I decided to take it slow.  I first put on the helmet and quickly realized the importance of neck muscles.  Apparently I have none.  I could barely keep my head up!  Bending over to get my feet into the boots (with the pants magically attached) proved to be tougher than I thought, given the whole head-neck-helmet thing, but I pressed on and managed to pull the pants up over my jeans, put the suspenders over my shoulders and with what little strength I had left, I threw on the jacket that I swear weighed a thousand pounds.  I have no idea how these men run through burning buildings with this heavy gear, carrying a hose filled with water, an axe and a seven-year-old clinging to a teddy bear.  Ok, maybe this only happens in the movies, but still. 

Lucky for us, during that moment the fateful bell didn't ring, because I needed about three fire fighters to get me out of that get-up.  We managed to put everything back together and while there were no fire fighters sliding down poles, no frantic bell ringing, no emergencies and no Dalmatians, I still had a smokin' good time.  Thanks Billy!