MY DAUGHTER WAS A FULLY REALIZED HUMAN BEING.
(It was time to let go).
So in midlife, in Los Angeles, where unknown mid-lifers are supposed to pack up their headshots and I don’t know—go play bocce ball? I wrote and performed a one woman show.
But it wasn’t about me.
For almost a decade I’d been living in Tujunga, a quirky, blue collar town known for aging bikers and crack addicts. I barely knew any of my neighbors.
But when the Station Fire began burning the foothills above my house and the best place to see the flames happened to be in my front yard, my neighbors and I were bonded in an instant. In the face of death and destruction even the most jaded of Angelenos became a family. As the flames inched closer, we met nightly because it was the most terrifying time.
Whether it be cigarette, chardonnay, mental illness or ???? all forms of coping were welcome there. We strapped soaker hoses to our roofs, packed up our cars with belongings and began to care more and more about each other. We wished we’d made friends long ago. It was one of the most exhilarating feelings I’d ever had.
But when the fires were out, everyone disappeared back into their cocoons of isolation, including me. We couldn’t be bothered with each other anymore.
It got me writing about the principle of honesty in the face of destruction and I was suddenly tapping into a myriad of metaphor and irony. I thought of certain kinds of trees and how they actually propagate only after being burnt in a fire. I thought of post 9/11 terror and how it could be the last straw for someone already suffering from mental illness and loss. How it could make someone want to go into hiding.
I took note of the seriously flawed homeless individuals that wandered the streets of Tujunga, and my protagonist Carla began to emerge. Living on the edge as she did, she felt a kinship with them, just as I had felt with my neighbors during the fires. She was an unflinching optimist, an unrepentant sinner, agoraphobic since 9/11 but renewed after the Station Fire “popped her nuts open.” As I drove to retrieve my daughter from school, I’d scribble down Carla’s latest antics on old receipts I’d grabbed out of my glove box. She spoke like a modern day femme fatale and was filled with sassy advice on how to survive like:
“I’m Clara but everyone calls me Carla and I’m ok with it. Because you gotta pick your battles, focus on survival, find a bathroom stall get on the floor and do some self-talk baby!”
The threat of death had stripped away her fears and superficial trappings. It made Carla manic, irresponsible and hard to live with, but her irreverence was her means of survival.
I’ve always been an optimist and Carla is one too. But unlike me, she accepts herself wholeheartedly even as she makes mistakes.
Even though I, Clara, have a normal prosperous life with a husband and daughter I adore beyond belief, I have been plagued by feelings of isolation and loneliness. These drove me to create the character of Carla, an agoraphobic, bipolar stoner who has a very good reason for feeling alone. She is alone and yet she must survive. I hope to find that kind of community here with you on Wine, Women & Chocolate.
Review of my show here: (They thought I really was an agoraphobic pot head!)
LA Theater review here:http://www.latheatrereview.com/2011/06/26/fringe-2011-–-day-eleven-–-sunday-june-26/