One person a day until November 3rd.
I love talking to people. Despite myself, weird, interesting and lots of times incredibly smart, magical people have been drawn to me my entire life. I suspect the reason for this is that I am to write about these fascinating folks, which I do with ease in my plays. Characters such as the Dutch photographer living in Paris who is going off to Kenya to shoot the Masai (The Witch of Ile St. Louis) and the advertising executive who speaks like a poet (My Life As You) are based on real people in my life who I have known. But lately I’ve wanted a simpler outlet, something that’s just fun.
With the election coming so soon, I thought it might be an eye-opening exercise to interview random people once a day. Let’s see if I can do it. This will force me to be present – to ask questions and to listen. So often, we shut the world out and just listen to our own voices, the ones in our heads.
Interview 1: Melody Olsen.
Occupation: Student, Aveda Institute.
When I went to the Aveda Institue yesterday to get a cheaper-than-usual haircut and highlight job, I didn’t expect a.) it would take so long and b.) I would run into the likes of Melody. Melody O came out around a corner and asked me softly if I was “Laura.” I nodded, put away my book and walked towards her station. Melody looked annoyed and an unhappy grimace turned the corners of her soft round face. With her blond bob and her broad shoulders, she reminded me of someone I knew before, in another life, someone who was “extremely type A” and from the Midwest. So that’s where I put Melody in my file of people. I did all this before she uttered a word. I was tired and not up for lots of conversation at first. Next, Melody and I discussed my new gray which appears just around my ears and it’s starting to make me look like Dracula. Hmmm….what to do next with my hair? Nothing super exciting, just some low lights and a shorter cut. Then, Melody and I set off to chatting as one does with a hairstylist. We talked about “going to school” and what Melody thought of the Aveda Institue. She candidly admitted her frustration was emanating from “school.” I could relate to the drudgery of school. I went to a three-year graduate MFA program filled with just the people I’ve been trying to avoid but inexorably drawn to my entire life “drama queens.” We also talked about finding it annoying how many times in our lives “high school” would repeat itself. And being a good bit older than Melody (I guessed), I assured her that high school stuff happens all the time. Turns out, the more we talked, the more I found Melody interesting and not quite like anyone I’d met before. Her Midwestern familiarity came from her hard working background, not from Illinois as I guessed. This 23-year-old, Independent voter came from a Republican, “hunting” family and grew up in Nome, Alaska a town of about 3,500 that just got cell phone service two years ago.
When I asked her about Sarah Palin her face lightened, she was a fan, but admitted she preferred Hillary (uh, me too). I asked silly non-cultured questions even though I might already have known the answers. I asked about hunting, Wolves, Bears, Caribou (apparently Caribou is what her family hunts), Polar Bears, Grizzly Bears, Whales, Eskimos and even Igloos.
“The Alaskan people all hunt – it’s normal,” She said with a serene calmness. “A hunting and gathering people, they feast on the land as our ancestors did,” she said with the authority of a school teacher.
Then, this blond haired blue-eyed beauty told me about her grandmother’s Eskimo village and always knowing that she wanted to be a hairdresser and taking the chance to move beyond her small town and to NYC. What courage!
We had that in common. I also came from a small town of 100.
Looking at Melody, with her soft radiance, it reminded me of me when I was first getting to know this city.
My hardest question yet: “What’s your favorite New York experience so far?” She had to think about it awhile. Nearly an hour later as she washed my newly colored hair, it came to her.
“My favorite memory so far is a sudden rain storm. We don’t have them in Alaska. There was thunder and lightening – and it was pouring. We were all running with our black aprons on. I was giggling….”