Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Death in the Woods

As we plowed down the unpaved road in a pickup truck that we would soon found out did not have 4 wheel drive I had an interesting thought:

This might not be a good idea.

Shortly thereafter my phone rang. It was my buddy in the Hyundai ahead of us.

Turn back. Don't come any further we are stuck in the mud.

Naturally by the time he had finished his sentence we were directly behind his Hyundai and stuck in snow mixed with mud which had made a wonderful slush that trapped us too.

My then girlfriend gunned the engine of her parents Toyota pickup truck we were driving, trying to get us into reverse and out of the woods. I turned to her and said:

I thought you said this was four wheel drive?

She turned to me and shrugged.

I thought it was.

Ohhhh. Suddenly it became clear.

We were going to die in the woods.

I had thought of the many ways I might die in my life. But stranded in a snow covered wood from starvation really had never entered my mind. I'm not one for camping, or hiking, or just hanging out in the woods. So not only was I surprised that I was going to die in the woods, but that we had ended up in the woods in the first place.

That wasn't the plan. The plan was to go skiing. And in 2005 when you needed to get someplace you had never been before, you went on MapQuest. And whatever MapQuest said to do... we did. It had never gotten me lost before. I had always arrived safely at my destination.

Then again MapQuest had never invented an imaginary road that cut across a mountain to a ski resort.

So there we are, 4 of us, 2 couples with a Hyundai and a Toyota stuck in the slush trying to get a pick up truck out of the slush with a board and our wits.

Needless to say this didn't work.

So instead we started debating what to do. Who should we call? The police? What would we even say?

Hi 911? Yes we are lost in the woods. No I don't know where, we are lost. Actually if you try and get directions to go skiing via MapQuest that should get you to where we are right now.

We didn't have any friends in the area, and the only friends we did have were 3 hours away back in Phoenix. We were lost deep in thought when we saw a Honda barreling down the dirt road towards us. Immediately we start screaming.


Before it makes it all the way to us the Honda stops and two girls wearing flip flops step out of the car. Part of me wonders if we should have let them keep going at this point. Immediately it is obvious that these two girls are also going skiing via MapQuest directions. We explain the situation to them and right away the driver gets all pissy with us... like we're trying to prevent them from going skiing.

Yea that's it, we know the skiing is really good so we basically parked our cars in the snow on a dirt road in the middle of the woods MILES AWAY FROM THE SKI SLOPES so nobody could get to the good snow which we are hoarding.


The a-holes get back in their Honda (which is smaller than both of our cars) and manage to back out of the woods to safety and civilization and all that crap, whereas the four of us are left with a greater issue. It is cold. We have no plan to get out. And some of us have to go to the bathroom.

As we are all aware, there are two kinds of having to go to the bathroom. The kind you wouldn't mind doing in the woods, and the kind you never want to have to do in the woods.

Naturally you can probably imagine the situation we were faced with here.

Even though you are in the middle of the woods, miles from people, part of you still thinks...

I wish I had a door right now.

But enough about that. After walking in circles we eventually decided we had to walk back the way we came. So we locked our cars (who knows) and started trekking out of the woods. We had been walking for about 15 minutes when I saw a giant black bear running towards us.

As it turns out it was just a large dog. But when you think you're going to die in the woods your mind is ready to accept crazy things.

But now I was worried I was going to eaten by a rabid woods dog. Until I saw a man following it. At which point I was ready to be confronted by an axe. I really didn't know what to expect.

As it turns out the man was the nicest man I'd ever met in the woods (read: only). We told him our story and he said just the weekend before he had met more people in the woods who had been kindly guided there by MapQuest and it's "invent a road" software. He volunteered to drive to Wal-Mart, buy a tow strap, and then come back into the woods and tow us out!

We were all in disbelief. How could a person be so nice? That's amazing! Please do!

As he drove us one of my friends turned to the rest of us and said "Is this a good idea?"

We suddenly realized that this guy knew we were stranded in the woods and maybe he was going back to get his weapons or people chopper or axe wielding friends. But we realized we didn't really have a choice.

And believe it or not he came back, axe-less and with a tow strap, and pulled us out of the woods.

I don't remember his name, and we never heard from him again but I never used MapQuest again.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sliding Slowly Down the Mountain

How do you feel?

This is the question everybody keeps asking me.

After nearly 6 months of working to bring a play from idea to implementation, after beating a script into submission, hunting for theaters, soliciting actors, rehearsing to ungodly hours, doubting every facet of my life, and more restless sleep than I care to remember… I’m not sure how I feel.

I know I am incredibly proud of the show, I felt warmed, and purged, and impressed, and wowed and fulfilled, but this past week has almost felt like a hangover.

I know I don't feel numb, it's actually quite the opposite, I think I feel everything. Kind of like being underwater, where every sense on your body feels something, like you’re enveloped.

I do know I feel tired. I haven't felt this tired in years, since I was 21 and running homecoming for my school. A week of events had left me so drained that I fell asleep sitting up at the lunch table on the last day. The mayor was sitting across from me, kicked me under the table and said

Hey, go home and go to bed.

This feels kind of like that.

How does one even begin to contextualize something like this? How can I make others understand when I myself have barely managed to wrap my brain around it. I think about every moment of the process every hour of every day. I quote the play in my head. I replay conversations I had with my actors. I relive the feedback I heard from the attendees. It is like the entire experience is on loop in my head and I kind of can’t stop it long enough to realize:

A: It’s over.
B: What that means?

People also keep asking me what’s next. And while I know, I’ve known for months what my next project would be… I’m not ready to look at it yet.

It’s kind of like finishing a really amazing dinner. A meal that was slow cooked that you took your time to savor than lives on your tongue long after your plate is cleared. And the natural instinct is to start the next course, or dessert, but I’m not ready for the sensation on my tongue to dissipate yet.

This project took so much out of me in the best way possible. I honestly believe by the time Saturday night came, and my actors took their last bow… I had nearly nothing left to give.

Every night of the show I watched from the back of the theater, trying to gage the audiences reactions by their faces, trying to anticipate how it was making them feel. My head swiveled back and forth from my incredible actors to the audience. Back and forth, back and forth.

But on the last night I had a hard time watching the show. It had nothing to do with the fact that I knew exactly how it would go, or that I had seen it dozens and dozens of times. Something about the fact that this was the last time it was going to happen made it almost unbearable to watch.

Logic says to me that it should have been the opposite, that I should have been glued to their performance, but for some reason, not knowing if I would ever see it staged again almost… hurt.

And so these last 7 days I too have almost hurt. I feel slow, purged but at the same time sluggish, laden with all of the emotions I struggled with over the last 6 months… over the last year.

I have had crazy dreams every single night. Wild dreams with diverse casts of characters in far off places, a result no doubt of having repressed my creativity for anything except this very project.

My emotions have been so close to the surface. The first two shows I did I felt this overwhelming storm of tears brewing within me, and sure enough sometime after the show ended, those tears came in force, no doubt aided by alcohol.

This time was different. Seemingly little things bring tears. A story from my actor telling me what she appreciated about the show. Questions from friends about how this affected me. And as always, self realizations about who I am or am not.

All of this has made it feel like I am walking through sand the last week. Not getting anywhere quickly, incredibly aware of how much energy it takes.

And this might not make sense, but the way I feel, the way I have been this past week has almost felt… earned. Like I deserved it. In some sick way, this exhaustion is almost exactly what I didn’t even know I wanted to feel.

One of my good friends who came to the show and I were talking last week about the important attributes artists need to have to be successful. I mentioned vision. We went back and forth a little bit about it but as I sit here now and write this, I realize how important it has been for me.

The ability to see where I want to go, to trust that I have the ability to take myself there, that I can will myself into something more than I was when I woke up this morning, that such a thing or place exists, to me that has become more important than ever before.

So I turn my eyes to the future, to unknown lands, and to the next mountain I look forward to sliding slowly down.