Category Archives: Politics

Fall interviews – more New York City.

If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m interviewing….madly interviewing one, sometimes two people a day.  It’s hard work, but I am getting it done.  Alas, here is the latest.

Kenneth Butler and Danny Fernadez

Kenneth Butler and Danny Fernadez

Who:
Danny Fernandez and Kenneth Butler
Where: Greenwich Avenue, NYC
Occupation (today): Civil Rights Activists
Normal occupation: Kenneth is an actor and Danny is a filmmaker.
Tuesday, September 23rd.
11AM – I was on my way to Grounded – my new writer’s lair.  As I ran by, I noticed two guys with petitions.   Normally I do my best to avoid people with petitions, but this time, the two guys holding the petitions Danny Fernandez and Kenneth Butler looked interesting, so I decided to ask them what they were up to and what I could sign.
Turns out they were trying to get money for Gay Rights (HRC.org). They explained to me that HRC.org  supports all kinds of lobbying efforts for Gay rights in Washington.
“Did you know that a Catholic Church organization is spending 1.2 million to put bills through congress to stop gay marriage?” said Kenneth Butler.
“Proposition 8 is on the ballot in California,” seconds Danny.
Proposition 8 could ban gay marriage.
“I’m not gay, but lots of my friends are and obviously I think civil rights affects everyone.  It’s hard to believe what marginalized cultures have to put up with from the government and the Christian Right,” said Danny.
“See, my $11 a month really adds up,” says Kenneth proudly.   “When you know that gays are still being persecuted” and “they can’t marry in many states” seconds Danny….”well we feel better that we are doing something.”
After many hours of writing I came by the same area and at 4PM the guys were still out, still trying to get money.
“How did you do?” I said.  “We did great today,” said Danny.
“The people were really excellent,” said Kenneth.

Creative writing: fall interviews

More interviews…oh fall!
I always remember the first day of fall.  The air feels slightly chilly and it seems like signs for Halloween are everywhere, even if they are only in your mind. Once a romance that had been brewing all summer came to fruition on the first day of fall.  Everything seemed more poignant that fall.   Flowers were more fragrant.  I recall wearing tights that were too tight to pull up.  I got my solo apartment that fall, even if it was only a sublet.  It was a magical time, but then, fall always is.  It’s the biggest change of season, a time of re-birth.
So on with the Interviews – I haven’t forgotten.
Who: Rachel
Where: Grounded in the West Village, NYC
Occupation: Business Editor
Rachel is a fan of the Yankees, “loves Shakespeare” and will probably run a marathon someday.  She also happens to be a business editor.
“I hope my team isn’t messing up the coverage,” she says.
For the past year, she’s been my Sunday Yoga friend and that’s the extent of it.
We met while I worked in marketing for Salon.com, which is now forever ago. We met when Salon was relevant and we were not.  Things have changed.
These days Sunday Yoga is “our date” because it might be the only time we see each other in the month. We are both guilty of being busy, and we both travel a lot.  Rachel is always “off somewhere”- or “going to her country house”– or on a humanitarian mission to Africa. She seems like the kind of person who could put out a fire and save two babies on her way to work.  And no, she won’t tell me who she’s going to vote for because of her “journalistic integrity.”   Really? Okay.
Since I never go to Brooklyn, I have to appreciate that Rachel comes into Manhattan for our visits.  I’m a Taurus, which means I make people come to me.  Rachel is a Leo, which means, she controls things.
“Oh,” she says with the calmness of lion after its kill, “did I tell you that I accidentally ran a half marathon last weekend?”
“How do you accidentally run a half marathon?”
“Well, it just happened.”
But it was something, this marathon.  This was Rachel once again pushing herself to new, yet un-tested limits.
“Oh Noni, I’ve got to get going,” she says as she helps me finish my coffee.
Knowing that Rachel loves plays as much or more than I do, I ask her if she’s the kind of writer she really wants to be.
“I’m making my living writing.  That’s the kind of writer I want to be.”
Her answers are all business and I guess that makes sense.
“So, are you writing this down, Noni?”

——-

Who: Carolyn French

Where: The Fifi Oscard Agency, Midtown, NYC

Occupation: Literary Agent
I met Carolyn French over five years ago when I came in looking for a job at Fifi Oscard, a literary agency in NYC.
I was in the first summer of my MFA and really only knew that a literary agent position sounded interesting.
I stood in the waiting room with my resume thinking that I would just get to drop it off and I wouldn’t hear a thing.  Turns out that the owner, the grand dame Fifi Oscard wanted to see me.
“So what can you do for us?”  Truthfully I had no idea.  “I can….lick stamps, uh…I can…answer the phones….”I stammered.  Suddenly I knew what I could do.
“I can read plays,” I said with confidence.
“Oh good,” she said.
So Fifi gave me a play and I returned it with comments the next day.  The play was terrible and I said so.
“You should go talk to Carolyn,” she said.  So I did.
That day I became Carolyn’s assistant and for the next three years I read and commented on a great many plays. I helped Carolyn file, write letters and worked on getting people out to her writer’s events.  Eventually my role grew at the agency grew and I had my own clients.  I had quite a time there, but that’s not what I’m writing about.
The ever-stylish Carolyn was born around 1930, which means she was a teenager when my granny’s cartoon Brenda Starr had just come out.  She lived in San Francisco and from the looks of her now, I imagine she was quite a beauty when she was young.  She’s tall and slender, and boasts of how she still stands on her head every morning.
Carolyn got her PhD in English and Theater, was unhappily married and had one daughter and “traveled the world” before becoming an agent.
Carolyn is probably one of the smartest and most intellectual agents out there.  She’s an agent that really knows how to tell a good play from a bad one.  Honestly, so many agents are just into the hype, but not Carolyn.  Even if she forgets ten minutes later, Carolyn will tell it to you straight.
Carolyn only decided to become a literary agent later in life after an illness left her unable to teach.
“I lost my memory,” she said.  “So I certainly couldn’t teach.”  But she could surely choose plays.
When she came to Fifi’s to work as an agent she had to train, just like me.
“ I worked for free at first – and still do, practically.”
Carolyn was able to gain her confidence quickly as an agent.
“I only wanted a project that people would recognize,” she said.  “I was hardly expecting what happened next.  I mean where do you go from there?”
Carolyn’s first project as an agent was the play “Wit” and it won the Pulitzer Prize.
When I told Carolyn that I wanted to be a playwright she said “why?”
“A playwright really only needs one good play,” I said.
Carolyn’s become a fan of my work and a wonderful and dear friend.
These days Carolyn has a harder time getting around, but she still loves what she does.
In some ways she reminds me of my grandma (Dale Messick) who I miss very much.  “When you quit and sit that’s it” – that’s what Dale used to say.
That’s hardly the way the elegant and charming Carolyn would put it, but I think the sentiment is exactly the same.

One Person a Day till November 3rd!

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.
Location: NYC
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….”

Thanks to Hillary…SATC and Brenda Starr Reporter

Now that all the Hillary hating is over, people can start missing her. In some of those photos, Hillary is absolutely stunning. Her beauty is deep within in the lines of her face.

The political landscape is far less interesting these days without her in the race.

I spoke to the Marketing Director of The Chicago Tribune today and she said: “Never in my life did I think I’d see the day when a black man and a white woman would be running for president. Together they’d be unstoppable.”

Probably.

Why was I talking to the Marketing Director of the Chicago Tribune? Well, because we were chatting about my granny and Brenda Starr — and how my granny, Dale Messick was one of the early pioneers for women, paving the way for not only other cartoonists, but for journalists. Dale Messick via her character Brenda Starr Reporter inspired millions with the “I’m a woman and I can do it” attitude.

SATC – perhaps it just proves that movies don’t have to be all about men or violence to be popular.

A Ghost In Fancy Clothes, Voting and Rafta, Rafta…

Have you noticed lately that when you start talking about politics — your politics — that people start tuning in and listening to what you have to say? A few weeks ago, I was at a restaurant with my husband and overheard a group of young people talking about how much they hated Hillary. I got so irritated, that I started speaking in Russian to my husband just to avoid their chatter. When I start speaking in Russian I must be desperate to have a private conversation with my husband, because my Russian is not so good. It’s on a the level of a five-year-old who has the mind of a much older person, who just can’t get the words out.

I’ve been quiet lately about the Hillary thing, because I had trouble supporting her when all these semi-lies started to pop up. But I still like her as a candidate. I dunno….

Go ahead and call me “Business Girl” –and she’s going through her own set of politics. Do you ever realize at some point, you are re-doing things you’ve already done, but perhaps with less enthusiasm? I already had a career in business and left it — once, twice, three times — and at every point that I left the cube and the florescent lights and the office politics, I swore never do THAT again. At some point I became a playwright, went to grad school, got produced, published, made movies (as an actress), was an agent too — and felt alive. And then realized even at its best, playwriting alone is a hobby and not a job (though I did get my first writing paycheck last year). But I don’t like to be poor. I’ve tried it several times — and it sucks.

So what’s a girl to do? So I’ll never be “just business” again. I’m now playwriting/theater girl and whatever else I need to do for $$ will always be just that…but is it? From experience I know that corporate jobs take up more time than you think. They are never “just jobs.” Your soul in exchange for a paycheck. Thank you. You’re welcome. But that’s not how everyone sees it.

That business girl — who had a dream job for one of the hottest websites in its heyday, who was so, so vibrant and passionate and who loved being edgy. Well, she already lived and died and now she’s just a ghost…a ghost who can buy herself fancy clothes.

My next subject:(I made you read a lot to get here didn’t I?) Rafta Rafta. I saw the preview of a new play by Ayub Khan-Din which is based on the play All in Good Time by Bill Naughton. It’s being presented by the New Group and it’s running until late May. You should check this out. It’s hilarious and full of plucky, well-drawn, if not too over-the-top characters. The set and lighting is a blast – literally. It kind of blasts you out of slumber if that’s where you were heading. You’ll find yourself rooting and caring for the characters’ plights. Also, there’s some sex involved and THAT’s always fun, especially since the chemistry between the characters is excellent. The ending was a little pat for my taste, but the ride was a good one. I laughed a lot….and I realized I needed a laugh.

Why is the press out to get Hillary?

Stop all the bad press on Hillary!  The woman is smart, intelligent and amazingly courageous — stop attacking her — and stop writing articles with no base whatsoever.  I hope everyone and their mother watched Saturday Night Live last week, where Tina Fey, got in some good slugs that were pro Hillary.

Six years ago in New York City

Six and half years ago I witnessed the worst attack on American soil first-hand. I found an article online that I wrote about this experience (I was shocked that it’s still posted). Check it out. I re-read it, and was shocked and the punch it still carries. Let us not forget the pain we all felt.