Friday, September 19, 2008

I do not know how to live like a bag lady.

The show opens a week from today, and we've started to incorporate costume pieces into our rehearsals. We have a cast of 11 and the show spans 30 years, which makes for a lot of costume pieces, and it's not safe to leave them in the rehearsal space overnight. So yesterday I volunteered to lug them home with me to Brooklyn.

Today we will be looking for another solution.

"They're not that heavy," our costume designer said, and he was right, for the first block. One of the bags, holding hats, wasn't heavy at all; the other, a vinyl block about the size of a courthouse cornerstone, weighed about 25 pounds. No big deal, except that my shoulder bag (with prompt book, computer, various supplies and my current reading material) weighs 15 pounds on its own, and the costume bag was just too big to be carried in any comfortable way.

So this morning I repacked everything into my big rolling duffle, thinking that would make my life easier. It did, but not by much; I am not strong enough to be able to carry the duffle up stairs easily, and you can't ride the New York subway without dealing with stairs. (You rarely see people in wheelchairs on the subway, because only a handful of stations are truly handicapped-accessible. Whenever I ride the subway, I appreciate the need for the Americans with Disabilities Act.)

Anyway, on my way home last night I needed to stop off at Kinko's to send out some e-mails, and I didn't drop all my stuff off first. As I was sitting there on my computer, surrounded by bags, a real bag man walked behind me and settled in another carrel. He was dragging a vertical shopping cart that apparently held all of his worldly possessions, packed into vinyl bags that looked just like mine.

It occurred to me, not for the first time, that street people need skills the rest of us never develop. Paradoxically, they must have heightened senses of self-preservation; they truly live by their wits, even if it's in a way that most of us shudder to think about. Certainly, the average bag lady manages her loads much better than I did last night or this morning.

What I Read This Week

Margaret Atwood, THE BLIND ASSASSIN. Claire lent me this book ages ago, and I finally got around to it last week; it's a dazzling, complex novel that is both love story and mystery, interspersing the memoir of 82-year-old Iris Chase with the novel written by her late sister, Laura, 50 years earlier. The book is similar in tone to The French Lieutenant's Woman, hiding its romantic heart under a determination to be unsentimental.

James Lee Burke, SWAN PEAK. I had doubts about a book that set Burke's iconic protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, in Montana instead of Louisiana; in fact, the new setting allows Robicheaux and his oldest friend, Clete Purcel, to learn new things about themselves and each other. And the real story here is not about Dave and Clete, but about an angry, frightening man named Troyce Nix, who gets an unlikely chance at redemption. One of the best in the series.

Jan Burke, BLOODLINES. Another book I should have read years ago. Three generations of a wealthy Las Piernas family disappear in one night, as the grandparents and parents are lost at sea and the grandchild is kidnapped from the family home. Twenty years later, the discovery of two bodies buried in a car offers some answers, but the mysteries are not finally resolved for another 25 years. Burke handles a complex plot masterfully, and the section of the book set in the '30s is so enchanting I wish she'd set an entire book there.

Tom Martin, PYRAMID. I was in the mood for an Indiana Jones-style adventure novel; this wasn't it. An Oxford don specializing in astronomy gets a deathbed message from her mentor, and she and a colleague chase clues around the globe to prevent the world from cataclysm. Martin lost me early on, when his brilliant Oxford astronomer had to ask someone what the Nazca lines were, and his heroes are ultimately nothing but witnesses to the book's ending.

1 comment:

Laura said...

And you had time to read, too?!

I didn't like The Blind Assassin. It was just too clever by half for me. I felt manipulated. (Uh, oh. My issues are showing! ;)