Category Archives: France

Friends, Lovers, Celebs and other things that make us remember and love Les Miserables

girlsWendy is my oldest and dearest girlfriend. We’ve been BFF’s since we were eight years old. She moved to Penngrove School midway through the 3rd grade. She was tall (Wendy is six feet tall), thin and had gorgeous long blond, perfectly straight hair. To my chagrin, all the boys in our class immediately fell for her. She was fun, funny and quite daring. She seemed to have perfect balance and timing for just about any activity – from tap to toe shoes. She could do and excel in just about anything you can think of — skiing, surfing, skate boarding, roller skating. She could ride horses and motorbikes equally well. She was the fasted girl in school — and was a great dancer and singer to boot. So we had a lot in common. Ha! Not! I was a smaller wanna-be compared to Wendy. Moreover, I had never even heard of most of her sporting activities before we met. But somehow I was able to hang out with her and hold my own. Sort of. If you count falling and crying a lot holding your own. Her parents took me water skiing for the first time – and had the patience to teach me how to get up on those skis while I begged to get out of the water. You can imagine my surprise and delight when I actually stood up and managed to fly across the lake on skis! I thought her dad was pretty cool. I had my talents too, I suppose. I was creative, a good artist…and of all her other friends I was the only one who had any talent as a dancer or singer, though I was nowhere near as good as Wendy, who grew up to be a local tap dance teacher. She spent hours teaching me how to tap dance for the 4th grade talent show where we “black berry boogied” our way to elementary school fame, at least in our own minds. As our teachers’ can attest, we were an unforgettable duo. Troublemakers with a capital T. Silly. Crazy. Tacks on teachers’ chairs — swallowed plastic bags — things I can’t even mention here. I think I lived to make her laugh. We were so crazy that we were officially separated and not allowed to even sit next to each other until junior high. I have so many pictures of us laughing  — mouths agape. We just loved each other. After a brief separation for 6th grade and again for 8th grade grade, in high school we were back together again. Even though we would never be assigned a class together in high school (unless we arranged it), our lockers freshman year were right next to each other. We had each others’ combos…of course. She used to eat my lunch sometimes. Or at least my cookies.Wendy, all these years later…is still my best friend — even though we live 3,000 miles a part for most of the year. She was my maid of honor at my wedding, threw my “Hello Kitty” themed bridal shower and tasted my cake for me since I planned my California wedding from the East coast. She sent me the most beautiful baby girl clothes when my first daughter was born; and was on the phone with my mom from my hospital room crying her eyes out the day I gave birth to my first child. She still lives in my home town of Penngrove, though not at her mom and dad’s, but down the street. Best of all, she’s still here for me when I come home for the holidays and for the summer. She knows my daughters and loves them both; and I know her son, Logan, who is now 9 and just the cutest, sweetest boy. Her darling niece Hanna was the flower girl at my wedding. They are like family. On Christmas day, I usually stop by her parents’ house and we do a gift exchange. This year I came with my two daughters in tow. She gave me the CD to the new movie Les Miserables and reminded me that 20 some years ago, I took her to see the musical in San Francisco. I did? Wow, I’d forgotten.

Oh how I loved Les Mis. I guess you could say that I was a Les Mis junkie back then, in the early 90’s. One of my other great friends (Audrey aka Ochie) took me to see it first. Audrey was the original Les Mis junkie. We waited, per her request, outside of the stage for the actors to leave. She was in love with the girl who played Epoinie. I should have known then that Audrey liked girls. She hadn’t really come out yet. I think she was still dating guys back then.  She’s now married to a woman who I introduced her to a few years back.

After Ochie’s introduction to Les Mis, I bought the CD and started singing the songs. I wasn’t a trained singer back then. Even though I don’t show it off, I now have a trained voice and can rock (pretty much on command) all the major songs in the show. But back then, without training, I nearly ruined my voice trying to belt out…”On My Own.”

Which brings me to my Paris/Les Mis connection. At some point in between my first viewing of Les Mis, I moved to Paris, France and spent a semester living in a dorm with about 50 other Americans who were around my same age, 17-22.  This is where I met the girls who were to become my other two BFF’s — Nicolle and Felicia.

Nicolle and Felicia are like my sisters. I don’t know how I could ever function without them. Had it not been for this Paris trip, I don’t know if we would have re-met, because we certainly didn’t hang out in high school. Nicolle and “Flea” as we call her, were two grades above me in school, and because of that distance, our paths crossed rarely if at all. But the few times we interacted, it was memorable. Nicolle and Felicia are two of the most beautiful women in the world, and back when I was a freshman and even a junior, girls like these two were just like royalty in the school. Nicolle was in fact the Homecoming Queen that year. To me, they were the beautiful older girls – popular, beautiful, cool, older. In short, I would never dream of being friends with them.

Felicia looks like a light skinned Italian, and apparently she has Russian royal blood. Nicolle is French in every possible way. Someone once said that I look their daughter if they had one together. In 1990 the three of us, along with forty something other young Americans lived in a dorm outside of Paris. There was a bar in the dorm where we would order cafe au lait during the days and at night wine; and when we’d had too much wine, we would sit in the stair wells, smoke cigarettes, drink even more vino and try to belt out “On My Own.”

Years later, I finally learned to sing “On My Own” and “I Dreamed a Dream.”  My pretty voice was finally trained. No more straining. No more breaks. I didn’t do anything with it after that. No auditions for musicals. I know?!  But whenever I make a peep (I sing a lot in my daughter’s Gymboree classes) people often ask me if I’m a professional singer.

So as someone who knows how to sing and is a Les Mis junkie, I go to see the film with my dear friend Nicolle. My old friend from Paris and high school, who is now a high school French teacher and a mother of two darling girls.  We kept leaning over to whisper how good Anne Hathaway is in the role, and how wonderful Hugh Jackman is. I reminded her that my oldest daughter, who is three, flirted with Hugh in a New York cafe one day; and how I go to his Laughing Man coffee shops all the time.  I cried several times during the movie. 20 years later, the story resonates more to me than it ever did as a young woman who couldn’t yet sing. I was moved as an actress, who has studied “The Method,”and as a parent of two daughters who I adore and would die for. I was moved as a wife and a daughter; and as a friend. Speaking of “friends”, I was so happy to be sitting next to one of my oldest and dearest friends. As wonderful as motherhood and family life is, there are things about your old life that you do miss. Time with good friends. I live in New York, 3,000 miles away. I miss my friends, and I do cherish them for everything that they are….and for who we once were.

“Without” at The Looking Glass Theatre

My play “Without” that I wrote in 2004 and was a finalist that year for the Samuel French Short Play Festival is being produced again at the Looking Glass Theatre in NYC June 4-7.  I originally wrote the play while studying playwriting at the Actors Studio Drama School at the New School. There is some interesting history to this play and it’s sort of ironic that it’s my most produced play (this is the third time it’s been produced in NYC).  Oddly enough, every time I get a production I re-write it a little, so it’s kind of always evolving.  The play is about a young woman who is attacked by a gang in Paris and as she’s trying to piece together what happend and who attacked her she discovers something – a miracle perhaps?  It’s one of my plays that deals with the psychology of the mind and plays with an alternate universe.  The Looking Glass Theatre is blogging about it,  so if you are interested in checking it out – you can buy tickets on their site.

One last good one: Bullets, Bums and Barack

Hope. Now I have it.  I’m so excited to see what Barack Obama is going to do with his presidency!  I feel proud for the first time that I am an American; that I had the chance to vote, to make a difference.
My interview project is nearly complete.   From September 17th – November 4th, I attempted to interview one person a day as an exercise to keep me writing.  The result is pretty amazing.  It’s a journal of New York City as we prepared to elect the first Black president.   On September 17th, the day after I arrived  in New York after spending two weeks in California, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of the city in the fall.  It was as if someone had put V-juice in my coffee.  Or, I was in love again with New York.  The trees, the air, the people…everything was cracking with change.

Continue reading

At Least We Have Paris (and New York)

I am so behind on my interviews it’s not even funny.  My mom, her best friend Ginny and my brother Curt visited me in NYC for a week.   It was non-stop eating, drinking, plays, shopping and parties.  It’s so fun to have visitors, but life kind of stopped while they were visiting, which is both good and bad.  Now that they are gone, it’s very sad and I wish I had more of them hanging out at my house like a dorm room…
While they were here, though, I felt a little bit removed from normal life.  It just so happened that I took a copywriting job right before they got here and started a Russian class, uh and I have my blog to write…so it felt weird to spend so much time just hanging out.
Virgina and my mom Starr have been friends since they were ten years old. They grew up in Indiana together and share memories of having sleepovers at each others houses when they were kids.  They are the cutest best friends I think I’ve ever seen.  My mom’s middle name should be “everything is so hard” – while Virgina is very chill and easy going. “Ginny” as we call her spent her first four days in NYC going to Aikido – she’s studying for her 3rd degree black belt.  She’s in amazing shape.
My mom on the other hand missed the “Jane Fonda” movement in the eighties. After having two kids back-to-back, she gained weight and never really lost it.
When I was growing up, I used to look at old pictures of my mom when she was young and think she was a model.  She was the most beautiful young woman I’ve ever seen.  Being the daughter of Dale Messick, who created Brenda Starr Reporter, she must have had a lot to live up to.
Even though she’s curbed her eating habits, working out is not her thing; even walking these days is cumbersome.  She has bad knees.  So the two of them together, Ginny and my mom are a little like a comedy show.

Who:“Ginny” my mom’s best friend
Where: NYC
Occupation:  Tourist and Aikido Master (studying for her 3rd Black Belt).
“Ginny” lived in NYC for twenty years during the seventies and eighties while she worked as an executive at IBM.  She sold her apartment on 93rd and Lex at a really bad time @1989.   She just heard her apartment is on the market again for 1.2 MM, so Ginny was set on telling me that she has “bad timing when it comes to real estate.” I told her to “stop that,” and then I saw the apartment in question.  Wow, I can’t believe she gave up a two bedroom, two bathroom in NYC.  No wonder she has regrets.
In 1989, while I was still in high school, Ginny was once again off for an adventure.  She fell in love with her Paris born and raised Aikido instructor and impetuously ran off to Paris and married him.  Her story reminds me of Carrie Bradshaw kissing New York goodbye for a shot at Paris; except unlike TV, Ginny really did sell her NYC apartment and she hasn’t been able to move back to her favorite city.
Since Michele (the French guy) didn’t want to learn English, she had to adopt her entire life around his; she learned to speak French and became a Parisian as best she could; which is not exactly an easy task. She suffered from loneliness and had trouble making friends because her French never got better than functional.  Therefore, talking about deep feelings became impossible, and well, the French are sort of, uh, French and her husband was no different – he was “uh” French – proud and impossible.
When I moved to Paris for a working internship in 1994, I remember thinking it was odd that Ginny technically knew French better than I did; but she stumbled when speaking, when I soared. While I spoke quickly sans accent, just like the French, Ginny’s words were tentative, like a little bird. I wanted to speak so I found a way I guess. Ginny doesn’t need to talk a lot; she is the quiet observer and a  great listener.   No wonder why men like her so much!  It’s nice, I suppose, for awhile anyway, to not speak and not to be heard.
Ginny had enough of “quiet times” and divorced the “French guy” and moved back to the states (to Florida) in 2002, but she hasn’t been able to afford to live in NYC again, which I think makes her a little sad.  See, for all of us who want to leave, we should remember that we might not get to come back — ever.  This is our time, right now.  I love Paris, and always thought I’d live there again, but in fact, I’ve been back only a few times since living there in 1994.
At least Ginny and I will always have memories of walking near the Seine in Paris; and for as long as I live here, and she likes to visit, we have New York.