Archive:  Year 4 - Sunday, February 21, 2010 "Little Turns"


Everything around the marina is melting, which has the dubious effect of ushering in warmer temperatures, and exposing months-old dog poop.  


I really hate this time of year - always have.  It is just warm enough in the middle of day to allow you to take large, deep breaths - uncovered by a scarf.  You may even open your eyes wide and look around, without blinking back cold air.  You forget to warm up the car, and find, it’s okay… You forget your mittens and discover you didn’t need them anyway.  But then, the sun sets, and as you leave the bar (or wherever) your daytime optimism comes face-to-face with single digits.  Your uncovered knuckles ache, your breath crystallizes on the windshield, and the melting puddles are now slick deathtraps.  


This is not Spring.  It is still Winter, and he is taking the vicious sucker-punches of a dying bully.  


Yet, there is some comfort.


Enough comfort, anyway, to bring the boaters out of their shells, and back to the firepit.  The firepit has been - since the first day I came here - the place to go when one wants advice, encouragement, a beer, or a long and elaborate lie…  Discerning the difference can be hard, and doesn’t really matter anyway.


Today, as I took Grace for a short walk, I saw that a few people had gathered around a small fire and a little music was playing…  A shudder went up my spine – it’s coming back!  As I walked over, Linda handed me a beer and Doug showered Gracie with treats. The River was flowing, unfrozen and open from bank to bank as far as I could see.  I don’t think I’ve stood up this straight since Thanksgiving.


But, again, this is not Spring.  Longer days and afternoons in sweatshirts aside, I still don’t have running water aboard the boat and I won’t look out the window and see anything but white plastic for another two months…  Guh.  


Tough as some of these weeks have been, however, the time has seemed to fly if for no other reason than my manic and unpredictable schedule.  I have had a kaleidoscope of jobs, even more haphazard than usual.


Earlier in the month, for example, I participated as a model in a runway show.  While I am an actress, and am used to being both watched and photographed, what I have done before is an ear-piercing far cry from runway modeling - I was a total fish out of water.


The designer, Christina, approached me several months ago at an event, and said she liked my style and thought I would be a good model for her project.  She is a graduating senior form the U of MN (my alma-mater), I could keep the shoes, and it was huge boost to my ego - so I said yes.  We had several fittings between September and January, and then the day came.  Time to strut yer stuff…  I was terrified.      


The day of the show was a full one.  Get into hair and make-up by 7AM, hair extensions, fake eye-lashes, the whole nine.  There were hours of sitting and doing nothing, followed by hours of standing in (fantastic) heels.  Christina had 5 looks in her line at the show, and therefore, five models.  The other girls were lovely, but very different than me in two important ways:  they were eight sizes smaller and half my age.


Which is an interesting situation for me.  Generally speaking, I don’t get too hung up on body image.  I have my pitfalls, don’t get me wrong – but I’ll take my size 8’s if it means I can run up a hill…  However, by the middle of the day, surrounded by 0’s, I couldn’t help but notice how much my arm looks like her thigh, or how her dress literally billows around her body, and how I fill a chair she nearly falls through…  Good or bad, you still notice when you’re the odd man out. 


Also, I had never walked down a runway before and, apparently, it is a very specific art form.  Technically, you’re doing more than you’d have guessed as a model.  The goal, of course, is to get the designer’s clothes seen.  Which means you have to walk much slower than you’re racing heart wants to.  You also need to stop, and pose several times in very specific areas.  One would think that merely posing would be easier than, say, delivering a line – or any of the hundred other things I’m used to doing on stage – but it’s not.  I mean it - it’s tricky shit.  Lots of people want to get pictures, and from lots of angles; and this is Christina’s senior project which means everyone from her professors to her Dad are trying to get a good look.


Stop.  Pose.  Count to three.  Turn.  Pose.  Count to three.  And don’t do that thing with your face!  Unclench your fists!  Smile!  No, frown!  No, Pout!  I had the roaring voice of Tyra Banks in my head, squeezing every ounce of adequacy I could manage.  And then, something happened that hadn’t happened since 6th grade… if even then.  During one of the rehearsals, a few of the ‘professional’ models had gathered at the end of the catwalk and were watching.  Through their Blade-runner-inspired make-up and giant hair, they leaned into one another making less-than-subtle comments about each model that passed by.  As my heels clicked past their all-seeing eyes I heard one of them whisper, ‘She rules.  I love her walk.’


They loved my walk!!!  The skinny, popular girls think I rule!!!


The bare-boned facts, of course, is that I couldn’t care less what they thought of me, but I would be an absolute liar if I didn’t acknowledge the power they had in the moment. For all I am proud of in my life, and for everything I’ve done – in that instant, I was as vulnerable as I’ve ever been. If it would have gone differently and they would have made some comment about my calves or my chin – I would have bit back the tears and completed the day with an adolescent dose of ‘who gives a shit’; and ‘it’s stupid anyway’.  


The show went well and Christina was happy.  And while I’m not particularly interested in doing it again, I think that an overwhelming sense of inadequacy is not bad territory to re-visit once in awhile.  No one is immune.  Photographs from the show are coming, and when they do I will again check in with my self-esteem and decide whether or not to share them…  Omg!  Lol!    


But the catwalk was not the only unfamiliar territory I was on this month.  The day after the show, with some stubborn mascara still stuck to my lashes, I hit the road for a 10 hour drive to Minot, North Dakota.  I have been working for four years with a very cool group called Crisis Company.  We are hired to portray characters and role-play with law enforcement as part of their training.  What we do runs a wide gamut, but generally we’re establishing scenarios in which the officer is dealing with someone who is mentally ill, highly distressed, or on a specific drug.  Their task is to recognize and de-escalate the situation without shooting or tazing us; and our task is to make the situation realistic, challenging, and educational.  It is the hardest, scariest, and most rewarding job I’ve ever had.  Hands-down.


I’ve traveled with Crisis Company before, but never for this long or at this distance.  A full week, our most intense scenarios, and - with all due respect to North Dakota - in the middle of nowhere.  To make matters worse, I was driving up alone, on Super Bowl Sunday and in a snow storm. After four hours of manageable driving conditions, I finally had to pull over for the night in Fargo around sunset.  I had driven past too many cars in the ditch, the snow and wind were getting worse.  If I chose to pass the turnoff for Fargo, there wasn’t any assurance I would have another chance.  I wasn’t required to be in Minot until noon the next day, and looking down the barrel of another 5 hours in the car, self-preservation trumped courage.  Within an hour, my white-knuckles were peeled off the steering wheel and wrapped around a glass of Jameson in the hotel bar of a Radisson.  The staff set me up in front of a giant flat-screen, making frequent, unnecessary trips to bring me more napkins or chex-mix while they checked the score of the game.  Beats a slow, cold death on the side of the road, I’d say.  


The next morning I hit the road anew and made it 5 more hours to Minot without incident.  Minot, it turns out, is more metropolitan than I gave it credit for.  Larger than my home town in Wisconsin and boasting a university, an airport, and a (gulp) nuclear-armed military base.  Apparently, if North Dakota were it’s own country, it would be the third most dangerously armed in the world… Little tid-bit the locals are glad to clue you in to when you visit.  It is also what has inspired the state to try something to make their law enforcement slightly less volatile.


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There were five role-players from Crisis Company and we each portrayed approximately six characters a day.  The ones that I was responsible for included a developmentally delayed woman who has wandered away from her group home; a returning vet suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and a paranoid psychotic who has doused herself with gasoline and is holding countless lighters… I’m not kidding.  In short, long days


But when we weren’t working, we had the luxury of enjoying a nice hotel; and quite a bit of time to ourselves.  I found a gym I could use in town, and wrote like I didn’t have any distractions… sorry, Grace.  All the same, I hit the road with desperation when the time finally came.


Ironically, I’ll be hitting the road again next week and for a job that might be considered the opposite of Crisis Company.  I’ll be covering my tattoos, ironing the khakis and flying to a corporate convention in Orlando.  There, I will help to illuminate several fine people as to the importance of maintaining an upbeat and polished corporate culture.  Be the brand.  Love the customer.  Wink and smile.  Wink and smile.


And, in the meantime, between the fake lashes and screaming at cops, Winter has started to loosen it’s grip.  With luck, by the time I’m back from Florida, it will have grown even weaker and I can cut a new window, or get rid of a heater.


All in time.  

  


Next Post: March 14, 2010 "Rising Tide"

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