Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chapter 10- THE IN-BETWEEN TIME

     At the end of three weeks, it was time to head back to real life.  The "In Melbourne Today" producers had called and asked if I could extend my stay and come back in studio for an "on camera" interview with Ernie and Denise.  Though this could have been a good opportunity to get my story out and possibly expand my search, there was no money offered and since I was simultaneously "broke" and "spent", I declined and boarded my flight home to LA.

     I remember returning home with a renewed sense of self.  I was in my early twenties and the first plan of action was to move out of my parents house and embark on life.  My immediate goal had been reached and, as far as I was concerned, I was done playing amateur detective.  I really didn't think much about my father and who he might be.  Lynn had told me that they had dated off and on and when she became pregnant he basically disappeared.  She told me that she was worried that if I found him I might be disappointed because he had never really seemed to care about anyone but himself.  Yikes.  No Thank You.

     So, I lived my life.  I moved to Hollywood (well, North Hollywood) and shared an apartment with my sweet friend Tina.  I lived the random and eclectic existence of the hundreds and thousands of other dreamers who move to LA to pursue their dreams.  I would go from meager low paying gig to even lower paying gig- all the while loving what I got to do and feeling as though I was "living the dream".  I was living below the poverty level.  Occasionally there were a few weeks of decent paying "Industrial Theatre" that often took you to exotic locales.  Industrial Theatre is a fancy name for "Convention Performances".  My job was to sing songs about water Purifiers and vitamins. I would appear as a "living Ritz cracker box"or a human sized "Gopher".  This type of work was likely funded by huge corporations- so the money was usually far better than "actual theatre" and I got to perform in European Opera Houses and Hawaiian ballrooms.  This was my bread and butter.           As an actor, the more gratifying work is in a production that tells a story (an arc if you will), and you are portraying a character.  You have the luxury of being given material with meaning, and you have the power to make your audience possibly feel differently than before they sat in their seat that day.  It's powerful, transformative- and is ultimately why we put ourselves through this life in the first place.  It's also an awful way to make a living.  To get this type of work in the greater Los Angeles area was (and still is) virtually impossible.  Back then, I got to play some "career defining" roles in a dinner theatre about 50 Miles from where I lived.  While it (barely) paid my rent and gas, the chance of being seen in action by a Producer, Casting Director or Agent was next to nil.  Los Angeles itself has an abundance of what are known as "99 Seat" Theatres.  In these tiny houses, one could have the opportunity to play a challenging "show-case" role, even alongside the likes of a TV star who'd like to sink their teeth into a different type of genre,  all for the paycheck of, wait for it, six dollars per show.  That's right folks.  Six Bucks.  Of course, the "up-side" is that you have the real chance of an "industry type" person actually wandering in sometimes- so, there's that.  Any actor who says that they got into the industry to make money is deranged.  Or a star.

 If you want to make it "big" in musical theatre (note the sarcasm)- you need to be in New York.  In 1991 the opportunity arose for me to move there with a boyfriend who was attempting to produce a show on Broadway that he had previously produced in Los Angeles- and which I had starred in.  To say that the fact that he was funding the whole move and actively seduced me by dangling this "opportunity" would be an understatement.  Let's be honest here.  I certainly "fell in love" with this man- but it was a very orchestrated "fall".  Let's just say that we both made conscious choices to make the relationship work as long as it did (about two years).  As it turns out, he ended up being a very bad man- and I really dodged a bullet there- but that's for a different blog.  Anyway, I started to carve out a bit of a career in New York.  I worked mostly in regional theatre outside of the city (way outside- like Indiana and Maine)- but everything is cast out of New York.  I never booked a Broadway Show- though I did get to do a concert at Carnegie Hall- which nobody saw because it was in the middle of summer and nobody stays in the city for the summer, and none of this means anything or has anything to do with the story so I'll just get on with it. 


 By the mid-nineties I was back in Los Angeles, preparing to marry the love of my life.  Seriously, he was my college boyfriend.  The one that got away.  I was devastated when he broke up with me- even though I knew that it would never work out if we stayed together at such a young age.  We spent the next six years independently making all the mistakes necessary to make before you finally settle down.  We reconnected while I was on a National Tour (making the big bucks..) and passing through LA.  I thought he was pretty much that same guy- but he noticed that I had become a jaded and bitter New Yorker and he loved this new aspect of  me.  Apparently, the fact that I had been such an optimistic little slice of sunshine was the deal breaker all those years before.  I would now like to thank life, experience, humanity and New York City for making me more- umm- lovable?  We got married in 1996.

Throughout the years, usually during a move or spring cleaning, I would occasionally come across that manila envelope; the one that contained my original birth/adoption records and grandparents photo that Auntie Val had given me.  I would examine them again- looking for a new fact or snippet that I may have missed- hoping that something would jump out at me.  Of course, I had searched for my father in the same way I had my mother- but to no avail.  Though his name was quite common I periodically tried to find him- hoping that it would be as simple as the way I had found Lynn.  I didn't have the luxury of calling information for the town he lived in as I had no idea where he might be.  I'm sure I probably called the operator in the area of his last address and made a few cold calls to randoms with the same name and initials.  People were mostly friendly and denied being or knowing Malcolm.  Lynn had told me that he had known she was pregnant so I didn't hold out much hope for someone to be completely forthcoming anyway.

I became pregnant with my daughter in 1997.  I was suddenly unemployed and had not much to do but eat bon bons and finally learn about this newfangled invention of which my husband was so fond.  The Internet.  Now I had never been even remotely tech savvy.  Luckily I married a man who had actually owned an original Macintosh in 1986 (when we dated in college).  He's also profoundly patient.  Let's just say that if I were not married to the man that I am, it's entirely possible that you wouldn't be reading this.  I've come a LONG way.  
So, I spent most of my pregnancy tooling around a website that was specifically for pregnant women and new mothers.  It was a wealth of information and I marveled at the way I could have instantaneous conversations with people from, literally, all over the world.  You could post a question or concern and as if by magic, complete strangers would be chiming in with their advice, opinions and lore.  There were also a lot of threads about Tradition, Family Traits , Family names etc.  As in  many other times in my life, I felt the exclusion.  Not because I didn't get to share my "inherited quirks"- in fact, I now had access to at least half of my medical history.  So, it wasn't about that.  I never thought that I needed to complete my puzzle so that my children can know their grandparents.  They know who their parents are.   They won't grow up with that all too often reminder that they can't completely participate.  In school, when they are assigned the "Family Tree Project" ( come on, we all had to do that right?)- they won't feel as though theirs is "fake".  As though, even though they completed the assignment it doesn't really mean anything.  After all, the purpose of this assignment is to show each other that we all come from different backgrounds and are made up of various ethnic heritages. It's really all about genealogy isn't it? Adoptees can participate using their adoptive family history- but we are all to aware that it really doesn't apply to us.  

It was around that time that it dawned on me.  I NEEDED to complete my jigsaw puzzle.  Not because I wanted a father.  I already had a father.  I wasn't looking to fill in my empty heart.  I wasn't Oliver Twist singing "Where Is Love".  It wasn't deeply emotional.  When I found Lynn it was gratifying and even lovely.  She was (is) a truly decent human being.  She is selfless, calm and uncomplicated.  However, I feel that emotion comes from relationship.  There needs to be a history for me to be emotionally invested. Another thought could be that I am so jaded that I am devoid of normal human emotion.  You tell me.  I think I can honestly say that the only time I actually cried during the whole Lynn reunion was that first morning after the initial connecting phone call when I crawled into bed with my mother and put my arms around her.  I felt the need to comfort her- and was seeking the same from my mommy.

What is it about?  The most honest answer I can give is that it is about demanding the most basic of human rights.  Knowledge.  Most humans are born and instantly are surrounded by the people who can tell them where they came from.  What they are made of.  It doesn't seem like much- but trust me- you miss it if you're the only one who doesn't have it.  It's as simple as that.

No matter how long it took, I needed to complete my quest, and I was going to use my new best friend.  The Internet.