Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 733: Pass the Mic: Listen to Your Mother Chicago, 2012

Before I get deep into describing the experience of last night's Listen to Your Mother performance, I'm going to give a shout out to Adam Yauch. I am old enough to have seen many celebrities of my youth die--usually of things like drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning, suicide, plane crashes, or gunshots. I can't remember any other famous person who holds a place in my memory dying of something as ordinary and sad as a rare cancer (of the salivary gland).

In high school, there were just a handful of current bands I gave a damn about, including A Tribe Called Quest, the Chili Peppers, Fishbone, and the Beastie Boys. We did all kinds of things we weren't supposed to do while listening to those albums--Check Your Head, Paul's Boutique--in a time when hip-hop artists played instruments, swore rarely, and wrote songs that were too long to play on the radio. Back in the day when we had radios. Back in the day when we didn't share those things we weren't supposed to be doing with anyone. Back in the day when we kept journals or just kept it to ourselves. And as I reminisce about those times, I wonder how those tired cancer arguments could possibly apply here. What...not enough attitude, moxie, will, talent? According to Dr. Richard Smith, the director of the Head and Neck Cancer Program at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, this type of cancer is "Just bad luck: not linked to alcohol abuse or smoking or HPV." And who are we to assume those things in the first place? Could the purchase of purple merchandise somehow have saved MCA?

Actin like life is a big commercial.

I'm sorry that MCA died from cancer when he was only 47. But I am so glad that for maybe the only time in my life, I got to follow his advice last night and...

Pass the mic.

Chicago listened to its mother last night, and the show was just magical.

I think the audience thought that as well, but that's not what I mean. We all did a great job, everyone sounded and looked wonderful, but that's not what I mean.

It was just a magical experience for me.

It's hard for me to describe why this meant so much to me, and I think to everyone else who was a part of it. I'm going to try to capture the things that I will always remember, and think of, about standing up on a stage and reading something that I had written in front of a bunch of people. I won't be able to do it justice, but it's my blog, so I get to try.

Listen to Your Mother Chicago 2012: I will always remember: indescribably nervous I was during the audition. I had never read any of my blogs aloud to anyone before, and I had never done a real audition for anything before either. When Melisa told me my piece was beautiful, I assumed she said that because it was, in part, about cancer. It was so gratifying to learn that isn't what she meant at all.

...our first rehearsal, when I realized that a lot of the cast members knew each other, and I didn't know anyone. That is when I started to learn about this blogging community that I didn't know existed. Though I have been writing a blog for two years, in some ways, I don't know anything about what blogging really is. I don't follow blogs, or go to conferences. Shit, I don't even have twitter (or is it "a twitter?" hell if I know). It's been really interesting for me to see how supportive everyone is of one another.

...our second rehearsal, when everyone in the room just cried and cried during and after my piece and Tracey had a hard time even introducing Judy, who was reading after me. I know my blog makes Gabe cry, but before that moment I had no idea that it had the power to touch people who don't even know me that well. Not being overly emotional myself, I didn't quite know what to make of that. And again, I thought it was probably a little bit because of the whole cancer thing...but not entirely. I guess I have figured out a way to write the things I am too lighthearted to say out loud. meaningful it's been for me to know these people who know me because I am a writer. When I was a kid, my friends knew to fold "writer" into their understanding of me as a person. I was sardonic, and swore a lot, and liked to watch sports and wasn't into girly things (well, except maybe shoes), and I was pretty lighthearted, but I could write intense poetry and prose too, and, well, that was just Katy. One of my friends from high school wrote me an email recently and said, "Did people really pay that much attention to your hair? I never really thought about it. When people ask me about you, the first thing I say is, oh, she's quite a good writer." But as an adult, people I have befriended have known me because of work, or kids, or something else. Anything I've written I have kept to myself, outside of what I write here. So these words come as quite a shock to some people who do not envision me writing them. And then, I met a group of people who didn't know any different, and saw this as just a part of me like all the other things they were getting to know about me. It's brought me back to myself, the way I really see myself. I will always be grateful for that, even if I stop writing this blog soon, which is something I assumed I would have done by now, but haven't yet gotten around to doing.

...that no matter what, my analogies are always a little bit off. When we walked into the theater for the first time yesterday, we all Now, the Biograph/Victory Gardens Theater is not intimidating at all, and it seats just 300 people, but we were all acknowledging that this was real, we were really doing this thing. And so of course I said: "This is like in Hoosiers, when the kids walk into the big stadium for the first time." Thank God for the few women who understood my reference--or at least pretended to-- of a 1980s high school basketball movie.

...that after the show was over and we met in the dressing room, I thought of Hoosiers again, and I wanted to say "I love you guys," but I'm neither corny nor Gene Hackman, so I didn't. I felt like I would crawl out of my skin with nervousness waiting for my turn on stage. I was third to last. But time seemed to fly by, and when Melisa said my name, I walked onto the stage, and...

...I did it. I didn't need to look down, since I had memorized the piece. I didn't forget anything, or fumble. I couldn't see my family, even though I had saved seats for them, because the lights were too bright to see past the second row. And yet, that helped me, as it didn't really seem all that different from reading the piece out loud in my living room. I know that it is an understatement to call my reading style "understated," and yet, people laughed at the right points. I heard all the sniffling and crying. I pointed in the general direction of where I thought Lenny was sitting at the end. And so, I did it.

...that the first thing Gabe said to me afterwards was that someone had cat-called me as I walked onto the stage. He sounded indignant at first, saying that as I walked up a guy right behind him said "aww yeah," and he wanted to slug him and say that's my wife! I didn't believe this story at all until one of our friends confirmed it. Being a guy, Gabe ultimately decided to be proud of this. Being Gabe, his pride was perhaps misplaced: "Hey...I picked that dress!" my friends and family came looking for me, and I was so pleased to see everyone but also so distracted, because the only person I really wanted to see was my daughter.

...that I got to do something few parents ever get to do. While I am still alive, and presumably healthy, I stood up in front of a room full of people and told my firstborn child how much I love her, in spite of my imperfections and the bullshit that we have gone through as a family. I told her what I think of her as a person, and how much I hope that I get to see her become more of that person as she grows up. I told her that I don't want to die and that knowing her has made living even more important to me. In five minutes, I said just about everything that I think I would want to say to her, whether I had all the time in the world or whether my time was up. she cried. She cried when I hugged her, and I thought it was because she was traumatized by what I had said, and Gabe thought she was just hungry. Now I realize she was tired and overwhelmed and really, really shy...because everyone in that damn theater knew who she was by name and it was too much for her at that minute. She was the only small child in the audience, so people were looking at her, nodding, knowing she was Lenny and knowing what that meant. she looked when we went to pick her up at my mom's house after we went out for a drink with the cast. She was so completely asleep that she didn't move when Gabe took her in his arms, just like she was a baby, and carried her to the car.

...that everyone told me that Lenny would always remember this night, and that I agreed, all the while knowing that I didn't do this for her at all, I did it for me. Parenthood is a selfish, selfish, beast, but sometimes it makes us do the right thing in spite of ourselves. I will never regret having my six year old daughter in the audience last night. my heart caught in my throat when I got home and realized it was really over, and how I realized that part of the reason that hit me so hard was that I now had nothing else to distract me from my anxiety over tomorrow's mammogram.

...the way we all--the cast, the producers--talked about "next year." We discussed which pieces to choose, what venue to use, whether the show should move to two nights as opposed to one. And, because we are adults, we did this in the most postmodern way we could. As parents, we know that there are moments that are incredible, but that will never be repeated. We are able to look back at the entire process that led to those moments and appreciate them, somewhat mournfully acknowledging their inevitably quick passing. We talk about next year because most of us know that we will never do anything like this ever again in our lives, and by speaking of it casually like it could happen again, we are admitting just how much this specific moment in time has affected us.

...that one of the joys of parenthood is that you get to take moments to heart that you don't even witness yourself. My stepfather told me that as they waited in the elevator in the parking garage after the show, people were looking at my daughter. So my mom said, "This is Lenny." And everyone else said "We know that. She IS beautiful."

In more ways than you could ever know.

Thank you to everyone who came to see the show, to every single cast member, and to the producers for giving me an opportunity that went way beyond giving an outlet for my voice. You helped me say something to my daughter that I could not otherwise say.

I love you guys.


  1. **You have no idea how much this post means to me.**

    I can't even see through my tears right now so I'm a little angry at you, but I'll get over it. :)

    As always, I love reading about your perspective on things. I hope you don't stop blogging. I would miss you.

  2. Your piece last night was wonderful, Katy!

  3. This was beautiful and you are very brave. And now I REALLY wish I could have gone all of the LTYM shows, especially Chicago, so I could see you point at your little girl.

  4. Damnit. Crying again...

    Know that we are all thinking of you and your results tomorrow. No matter what they are, we are here for you.

  5. magical is a beautiful way to describe it. You were amazing last night. And your daughter is beautiful and she gets it from you. And I loved being a part of this with you.

  6. Crying. Again. And I totally got the Hoosiers reference. I also got the chills when I saw your husband beam at you when we met up at the bar after the show. You could see the pride and love in his eyes. THAT was magical!

    1. You realize that Gabe was crying while reading this blog...and then he saw your comment and started crying again. You guys should go have a beer sometime! xo

  7. Welcome to the community, I hope to see more of you in the future!

  8. In addition to crying like everyone else, because, well, you know, yeah. And I'm on the bus right now - but I just let the tears roll. However, please give Gabe a big hug from me for his misplaced pride. That part got me laughing so hard I started tearing up even before your beautiful tribute to Lenny. Hugs to you all, Tay.