I remember Union Avenue, and a neighborhood where everybody looked more like me. Ironic that, as a child, being in N/NE Portland during the summer was an all-Black experience. There were no white neighbors. We walked to visit with my great-grandmothers neighbors and friends up the road, and cabbed anywhere further. Lloyd Center was an outdoor mall, and as teens we avoided specific downtown spots that were hang outs for racist skinheads. Then crack came…
Now, a few decades later; I stand only half a mile from my great grandmother's former house, that now is home to my father. I see two youngish yuppy white women jogging down MLK, in expensive running gear. Everyone sitting in the coffee shop, that I just exited, is white. Sometimes, I just want a cup of tea without a gentrifying reality slap across the face and reminders of community lost.
Portland has changed.
I'm less than two weeks form the opening of Roots, Reality & Rhyme: The One-Woman Show. Rehearsals and practice are acts of repetition, with required emotional engagement. Feels like pulling all of the skeletons out of the closet and asking them to dance. The role of the actor is to inhabit the character, embody the scene and NOT act... So I am becoming a better dancer.
Gliding my way over muddied, potholed places of memory; sometimes I still act surprised to find my shoes dirtied. As if I could walk through repeatedly unscathed! I court the geography of my past, mend the wound of a break-up, adjust to being without either of my grown-ups living at home. I am living alone, for the first time in my life.
I know this place, this intensity of emotion and expression, where it is just me and the bones, left alone to twirl after twilight.
My daughter just flew back to California for winter term. My son, who recently moved out, starts a new job tomorrow. And me… well, I’m 3 weeks away from the first ever staged readings of my one-woman show and about 4 months away from relocating and leaving Portland.
A lot is going on.
Last night my daughter didn’t sleep much. She stayed up til close to dawn working on two essential tasks. The first, finding a way to cram her needed possessions into 3 duffle bags, a backpack and a carry-on. She threatened to drop out of school in order to knit all day, the rigor of her major and Stanford taking a toll. She taught herself how to knit hats over the break watching youtube videos. She’s beautiful, brilliant, funny, creative and my youngest. And since this will probably be the last time she is at the apartment before I move out, her 2nd required task was to go get rid of anything lingering that she didn’t want or need, so it would be ready to go into storage when I leave. She left for the airport in the morning.
My son just missed her because her ride came earlier than we expected. He and I had made plans to go shopping downtown for work clothes; black slacks and button downs. He’s about to start a job that will actually cover his expenses. As a young 20-something, with roommates and bills, this time around work has new meaning. When I look at him, even though I can see him through all his ages, I can no longer kid myself and see him as a "kid." My son is a stunningly handsome young man, who wears the hell out of a suit. He went in to meet the manager and walked out with the job. I’m not surprised, he’s charming, deep and thoughtful. Our mission was successful, even though his lean height makes pants shopping complicated.
Then, I headed straight to a 2 hour rehearsal. Ran lines and worked on delivery with a friend who is a movement and performance artist, in the space where the show will take place. From there I met with the principle filmmaker, he showed me b-roll footage he captured that will be part of the 2 remaining visual segments for the show. My schedule for the next few weeks, and all that needs to get done, is intense.
On the way home from the whirlwind, it sinks in.
Everything is different.
I am a playwright now.
I am an independent artist, full-time.
This one-woman show is 3 weeks from opening day.
I am living by myself for the first time ever in my life.
After 20 years living in the 503, soon I will be leaving Oregon.
Time to embrace changes and do something new.
Well 2015, it's nice to meet you and this looks like the start of a beautiful adventure.