She had made me a little piece of art. A craft project really, just a few inches on each side, and the picture you see here is of its front. On the back, this is what she wrote:
“This piece was made from an accident, a sad mistake. The entire pad of perfect construction paper got wet and the colors bled onto each other. After the paper had been discarded, it dried, leaving the pattern of the accidental spill in different colors on each sheet. I found it months later and thought it much improved.
I love you.
This picture of this flawed yet improved construction paper has been the background image on my phone ever since. I keep the original note and art on my corkboard at home. It is perhaps the most beautiful reminder I have ever received of a deep-seated truth of the human experience: mistakes, failure, pain… they are unavoidable, and to be cherished as the most teachable moments, as the opportunities for grace and discovery, as the tilling of our richest soil for our greatest art and insight and maturation. This does not absolve you from responsibility for your actions, not a whit, nor should you seek out growth by harming others. But when you stumble, and when the stumblings of others impact you, you will find that contrition and forgiveness--which are simply the act of letting go--will serve you far more than pride and punishment.
Have a great week. I do not wish hardship upon any of you, but knowing that it will come regardless, I wish you courage and endurance and kindness and grace. And ultimately… the discovery of healing.
I moved to Florida almost exactly six years ago. Four years ago I was in a show, and the stage manager had a key lime tree in her back yard, and she would bequeath upon me BAGS and BAGS of fresh-from-the-tree key limes.
Obviously, I was morally obligated to turn such a treasure into pie. And discovered the best dessert ever anywhere for always and forever amen and hallelujah.
So, just over two years ago, on my vacation through the Florida Keys, I embarked upon a key lime pie pilgrimage. I sampled seven different key lime pies in four days, asked probing questions, and just outside Mallory Square in Key West bought a cook book devoted to nothing but variations on key lime pie. I became a disciple. Nay, a prophet. Seriously. Ask anyone at work or in my family. They'll tell you.
The history of this sublime dessert is, like much of food history, a fascinating blend of opportunity, necessity, and ingenuity. It was the invention of sweetened condensed milk--meant to keep sailors and fishermen fed and calcified--that presented the opportunity. After devouring the contents, there was always leftover gooey goodness stuck to the insides of the can. Sailors would stuff shreds of leftover bread into the can, snatch a fresh egg from a nearby seabird nest, crack it in, squeeze the juice of the scurvy-battling and ubiquitous key limes over top, and leave that concoction out in the sun for a couple hours to, um, BAKE. And kaboom! Tart, sweet, custardy mouthparty.
Legend has it a certain "Aunt Sally" in the late 1800's on Key West codified this sailor concoction into an actual PIE, adding the graham cracker crust and whipped cream topping. Bless you, Aunt Sally. Bless you.
There are big-time debates still raging: whipped cream vs. meringue, baked vs. no-baked, best crumbly crust component, etc. If you wade through my pie travelogue, your reward shall be my very own certified and approved basic key lime pie recipe, and perhaps I shall even reveal the secrets to my Jason Cannon-ized version... the Key Lime Colada Pie!
But first, the pilgrimage...
FLAWLESS KEY LIME PIE
This is for a 9-inch pie. Tips and tricks included.
NEXT LEVEL ALCHEMY
I share this as an exercise in citizenship, and to solicit further information. I’ve done my share of reading and research, but there’s always more to the story, and if anyone out there—in the spirit of sincere debate and truth-seeking—wants to fill in my gaps, I welcome that. I do not welcome ideological foot-stomping or mouth-frothing.
I share also on the off-chance someone out there hasn’t had the opportunity to fully ponder the wide and confusing array of amendments and nominees on Tuesday’s ballot. In which case I hope my disclosure is informative and provocative in a constructive way.
In no way am I insisting this is the exclusively correct way to vote. And I will own any instances of inconsistency in my thought. Humans are infinitely capable of mental, emotional, and moral gymnastics. I do my best to pull myself out of ideology and into thoughtful reflection, but I know I’ll never perfect that skill. Doesn’t mean I’ll give up trying, though.
I’ve not ever been a card-carrying member of any particular party. I have backed candidates from multiple parties throughout my voting history. I have never believed in “perfect candidates,” especially in a two-party system. They simply don’t exist. I am consistently frustrated by the failure of the Democratic party to reject the false luxury of “ideological purity,” cutting off their noses to spite their faces. The time to hold your party and your candidate to account is during the primary. Likewise I am beyond appalled at the transparent hypocrisy of the modern-day Republican party, their complete abdication of decency, consistency, kindness, and humanity.
I also in no way subscribe to false equivalency, either in the media or in governmental practice. If 2016 has taught us nothing else, it’s that in spite of the similarities of how the two parties often conduct business and bend to big money, there are vast differences in philosophy and policy that do indeed manifest when one party controls all three branches of our government. I would like to believe that people who utterly disagree about the role of government can still have respectful and fruitful discussions about the most effective way for government to fulfill its obligations to the citizenry. Likewise, any candidate who speaks in terms of their opponents or the press being “enemies” has immediately eliminated themselves from my consideration. When politics becomes a zero-sum game, you have put power ahead of people, and have abdicated your responsibility to the long-term health of your country.
SARASOTA CITY COUNTY AMENDMENT
Change the date. Absolutely YES. Will save real tax dollars, and guaranteed to increase voter turnout for these key local elections. Supported by a dizzying array of groups from all sides of the political spectrum.
SARASOTA COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENTS
--Legacy Trail Extension (Resolution 2018-046): Yes.
--Citizen Petition Process (Ordinance 2018-039): NO. If this were a sincere suggestion, I would be more open to considering it. But it appears to be more of a knee-jerk power grab by the City Commission, in response to the Sarasota City Charter Amendment getting on the ballot via petition, after the Commission had previously rejected it in a referendum. This makes me doubt the intention of this amendment.
—Charter Review Board Date (Ordinance 2018-039): Yes. Again, this will increase input from voters on important local issues.
—Beach Road (Ordinance 2018-036): Absolutely NO. This is a single citizen’s personal vendetta, basically, and he waged an incredibly misleading campaign. The road is already public, and it’s actually quite a positive in my mind that it is closed to vehicular traffic. It’s also short-sighted. Situations evolve, the needs of the community may change, and it’s non-sensical to include language like “never vacate in the future.”
—Preserving Property (Ordinance 2018-036): No. Misleading language. “Preserving” here is not used in the environmental sense. Like Beach Road, this simply ties the hands of the county in perpetuity, for no real beneficial gain for the community at large.
—Single Member Districts (Ordinance 2018-037): I have gone back and forth on this, but ultimately I land on NO. When representation gets broken down into overly specialized areas, special interests can take control. We see this in the US House already. I also like the idea that the commissioners must make their case to ALL of Sarasota, rather than just to a couple neighborhoods, and that voters have voting power over ALL the commissioners rather than just one. I want commissioners accountable to ALL of us. The arguments about the cost of campaigning are compelling, but I think that should be addressed in campaign reform rather than limiting voices and accountability.
Disclaimer—I am philosophically opposed to the “bundled” amendments. And I also view constitutions more as frameworks, separate from legislation. A useful metaphor: constitutions are the empty house, and legislation is the furniture, appliances, wall hangings, and landscaping. So amendments that get too specific and start to smack of legislation I am usually very hesitant to support.
1: Homestead. NO. Doesn’t benefit enough of the citizenry, will cause real financial hardship to city and county governments.
2: Property Tax Assessments. NO. Stuff like this should happen through legislation. This proposed amendment even comes from the legislature, so my suspicions on the intentions of this one are high.
3: Voter Control of Gambling. NO. And I’m quite adamant on this NO. I’m actually stunned the Democratic ballot guideline suggests Yes on this. Here’s all you need to know: Disney and the already established big casinos are pouring millions of dollars into passing this one. So what does that tell you? All the gods protect us should large corporations be empowered to rewrite the constitution in ways that squelch competition. That’s entirely counter to our American narrative, isn’t it? Even more, the language of this amendment is intentionally misleading. This is NOT voter control of gambling, because it would require STATEWIDE citizen support of ANOTHER amendment to get another casino open. This completely eliminates LOCAL control, and places HUGE financial and logistical burdens on the voters it purports to empower. Why should folks in the panhandle get to vote on whether folks in Miami or Ft Myers open a casino, or vice versa?
4: Voting Restoration. This is a big big big YES for me. I searched a lot to find any compelling reason to vote against this one. I found none. Voting is a fundamental right. Punishment should not exceed the length of one’s sentence. Frankly, any legislation that seeks to make voting MORE difficult comes under immediate suspicion for me.
5: Supermajority. This is a disappointed NO for me. I like the part of this that makes any new tax or fee required to be a stand-alone bill instead of bundled into other bills. But how ironic that this provision is bundled in with a proven non-starter in the supermajority tax vote. Once again, tying the hands of our representatives makes them LESS responsive and LESS accountable. The time to hold them accountable for their votes is when WE get to vote on THEM. Any amendment or bill that protects the power of those in power, to me, is incredibly suspect. I don’t want to give our representatives more excuses or avenues of escape from accountability, and a supermajority requirement creates both.
6: Right of crime victims/judges. NO. These bundles from the Constitution Revision Commission are mostly, to put it bluntly, dumpster fires. Some of what is in here is worthy of debate, but putting all these disparate things together is simply undemocratic and smacks of the worst sort of shell game politics.
7: Survivor Benefits and Public Colleges??? NO. A ridiculous bundle, including another short-sighted, power-hoarding supermajority requirement.
8: Struck from the ballot. For being another stupid bundle.
9: No. This goes back to my preference for legislation on interpretive issues and for not bundling disparate things together. I don’t vape and I’m not fond of it, but there’s no reason for that to be a constitutional issue. I’m also all for addressing oil and gas drilling, but the constitution needs to set Florida’s philosophical point of view, and then responsible legislation needs to be crafted, and we need to hold our representatives accountable for that.
10. No. Another mind-boggling bundle, that also limits local control and situational reactivity.
11. Yes. Shockingly, yes. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The Constitution Revision Commission actually bundled three wildly disparate things that all make sense unto themselves, so I’m voting yes here because the exception proves the rule.
12. Yes. Not a bundle, all of these things go together, and while it’s a lot, I think overall it’s a step in the right direction towards subverting the power of lobbyists.
13. Yes. This one goes to who we are as Floridians. There’s no “trickeration” here; the language the “no” lobbyists are pretending to be worried about is already in the constitution and hasn’t yet been able to be abused or wielded as a cudgel by those scary animal lovers. I’m happy to get into a discussion about conflicting incentives here; it’s endlessly fascinating in terms of human behavior and morality. But even though this one sorta straddles the line between constitutional framework and legislative specificity, it’s beyond time for us to believe the market trends here and also to simply evolve as humans.
I have never voted a straight-party ticket. But that is changing for this election. Republicans, I don’t doubt many of you feel like your party has left you. But if your candidate has not in some way proven their integrity by denouncing or resisting the objectively immoral narcissist that now leads your party, then they no longer represent you, and this is your time to step forward and demand better. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the way to reclaim control of your party is to strip imposters or spineless sycophants of their office and then run legitimate candidates in the next cycle. If there were legitimate Republicans on my Florida ballot, I would consider them in true contrast to the Democratic nominees, weighing their policy positions. Based on my research, I am prepared, for the first time in my life, to go straight Democrat down my ballot on Tuesday.
US Senator: Nelson. Note, this is as much a vote AGAINST Scott. Especially with Rubio already as Florida’s other Senator, this one is important. To my mind, Scott has proven himself willing to harm his constituents in order to enrich himself, his special interests, and his political ambitions.
US Representative: Shapiro. Buchanan has not demonstrated philosophical integrity or representation of his full constituency. I will hold Shapiro to that same standard.
Governor: GILLUM. And this one I’m actually excited to vote for. And DeSantis, throughout this campaign and the debates, has revealed himself utterly unready and unfit for this office.
Florida House District 72: Margaret Good.
Lengthy, I know. If you made it this far, the falcon flies west at midnight. 🙂
Go vote on Tuesday! It matters. It not only changes your community and your country, it changes YOU.
As Bruce Lee said: “I do not fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks one time. I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
This is the essence of expertise. Of mastery. Of rehearsal. Of effective replication of performance.
There may not be a lot of difference between your 1000th kick and your 1001st kick, but there will be a world of difference between your 1001st kick and your 7854th kick.
At the same time, the only arbiter of “real artist”, or “good artist”, is YOU. But note this: being a good artist does not instantly mean all of your art is effective. Recognizing repetition as the pathway to expertise keeps you humble, keeps you working, keeps you focused outwardly, because note how in the attached jpg the essence of our art is in the emotional response of the audience. Do not seek their praise. Seek their catharsis. Their praise is fleeting. Their catharsis fundamentally alters how they interact with the world.
Get back to kickin’.
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat upraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object.
The Magician makes the visible, invisible.
The Scientist makes the invisible, visible.
The Artist stands in between, indivisible.
Or put another way….
When you make music or write or create, it's really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you're writing about at the time.
Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.
Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.
And why make art?...
Because art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
Because art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
Because when life beats you down and crushes your soul, art reminds you that you have one.
Because art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.
Keep that in mind the next time you go to the theater. The theatre… which is the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being. Some gifted men and women have built a community in that room, and the immigrant is you.
An excerpt from a speech at a luncheon honoring FST's ushers and volunteers...
But here’s the thing, and this is the real reason we are breaking bread together today. None of these shows would have achieved their effectiveness and success and impact… without all of you. As the director of all those shows, I’ve been in and out of our venues and lobbies, I’ve shook many of your hands, and shared quick stories and even hugs. From you I’ve gotten feedback on the work, and direct accounts of audience response. But I’ve also seen first-hand how deeply interwoven you are not just into our culture, but into our art.
Let me be clear. I talk at length about the importance of customer service with our apprentices and interns, because the patron’s experience doesn’t begin when the lights go down. The patron’s experience of our art begins… the moment they find parking. Actually, even before that, when they call or visit our box office. And every interaction a patron has with FST staff and volunteers has a direct impact on their experience of the art. If a box office worker is rude, or a house manager is indifferent, or a bartender skimps on the liquor, or an usher is cold… the patron views the art through a biased lens. The impact of the art—which is the whole reason for FST’s existence—is directly affected by the collective energy created by every interaction a patron has with us on the phone, at the box office, at the bar, in the lobby, and—LASTLY—in the theatre itself.
You… are part of the art. You are part of the experience. And I’ve seen you all in action enough to know: that our art is better for who you are and how you treat our patrons. Many of you are patrons yourselves, of course, so I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. But please know that WE know, that I recognize, that no matter how brilliant I may be in rehearsal, and no matter how skilled our actors may be on stage, if the patron isn’t treated with respect and joy BEFORE the show, then they are not going to have a truly meaningful experience DURING the show. You set the stage. You make me look good. You make our actors appear even more compelling. You prepare the patron to RECEIVE the art. You are not separate from FST’s work or some mere addendum. You are integral to the work, the art, and the mission.
And beyond this present day, you are impacting the FUTURE of theatre. You set such incredible examples for our interns and apprentices. You show them how to love the patron. You fill familial and emotional gaps in them that I, as a supervisor and consistently buried in rehearsal, often times am unable to fill. You remind them who they are doing their art FOR. Because art is not meant for the artist. Art serves the audience, and that relationship creates an experience that encompasses the community rather than just the individual. And that is why theatre and art are not frivolous, but vital.
You… are vital. And this luncheon today merely scratches the surface of how much we appreciate, emulate, and owe you. Truly, you are FST collaborators, shaping life-changing experiences for our audience.
From the bottom of my artistic heart, and on behalf of all the staff and interns and apprentices of FST, I say… THANK YOU.
An excerpt from a speech at a luncheon honoring FST's ushers and volunteers...
Picking up after asking everyone to raise their hands for the various shows they had seen that FST had produced that season...
But seriously… all of those raised hands. Each of those hands represented a very real donation of time, energy, and attention. Every single raised hand reflected a commitment, a gift, a generosity that you all infused not only into the audience… but into the art on our various stages.
All those hands. So many of you give so much of yourselves that you forced us to find new ways to recognize you. Like this year with the new Diamond Club. A dozen of you eclipsed the 100 hour mark. That is sincerely flabbergasting. Your generosity has literally changed how we can effectively measure your generosity.
All those hands. Hands that are integral to the art. Not just because you put them in the air, but because you use those hands to take and scan tickets. To distribute playbills. To move walkers and wheelchairs. To shake other hands in greeting. To point the way. To help the patron rise. To collect those same playbills, and to wave a fond farewell. Those hands give so much, and it is this giving that transforms you from mere volunteers into co-conspirators with the entire artistic team at FST.
Playwrights give the play away to the director. Directors give the play away to the actors. Actors give the play away to the audience. Theatre by its very nature is an exercise in releasing ego, in giving away what is most precious and meaningful. And you all give away one of your most precious and meaningful resources… your TIME. And you do it with such grace and kindness and joy… you truly give not just your time but pieces of your SELVES. You prepare the audience to receive the gifts we are trying to give. You are not outside the art. You are part of the art. You are not ancillary to the audience’s experience. You are part of their experience. And I’ve seen you all in action enough to know… that our art is better for who you are and how you treat our patrons.
You and your hands… are vital to FST.
From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of the entire FST family, of which I hope you know you are a beloved part, I say… THANK YOU.
They are meant to provoke. To inspire. To cause divine discontent and consternation. To simply make you think and feel more deeply about this art form and this business that you are exploring.
Let’s start with Stella Adler, who reaffirms what Caroline and I have been telling you for the last week: that this is gonna be HARD. Fun, and fulfilling, and all the good fuzzy things too. But HARD. Difficult. Meaningful BECAUSE it’s difficult.
As seemingly menial things like laundry and going to the grocery store and organizing the bazillion tickets for our patrons grind your patience…
…remember WHY we do what we do.
Cling to the commitment to simply move forward, at least a little bit, day by day, trusting that the BIG discoveries will manifest when the time is right and you are ready.
Re-invest in the never-ending work of CHANGING PEOPLE. Events are beyond us. People will always be before us. And they come to us, in our theatres, to be reminded why they do what THEY do. To be refreshed in their commitment to moving forward. To find the strength to re-invest in the daily things they do to also change the world by changing each person just a little bit at a time.
Theatre pro, amateur yogi, and competent home cook.