Three cookies for you this muggy February Monday.
First, one of my favorite quotes, from noted novelist and theologian Frederick Buechner (to whom I once wrote a fan letter, and he wrote back!!)…
“Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith.”
If your faith, or your art, or your politics, are intractable, are unable to be challenged, are unable to be questioned… what does that actually say about said faith, or art, or belief? It says, that on a deep level where most of us don’t like to visit, we don’t trust that the truth can hold up to scrutiny. Which begs the question… is that truth truly true?
Stagnation leads to rot. In rehearsal. In performance. In relationships. In beliefs.
DOUBT… lets in air. Allows water and sun to filter. Creates room for growth and discovery of newer/better/deeper truths. The ants in the pants metaphor is so hilariously simple and apt. Ya gotta keep moving, keep jiving, keep looking for ways to encounter each doubt, so that your belief and your art can be stronger, more supple, more earned, more vital.
My official race time was two hours… and two-tenths of one second.
Two-dang-tenths of one second.
That’s not even a STEP.
But I tell you what… it was awesome.
Other fun facts… the course was actually about two-tenths of a mile SHORT. Numerology!! Which means I actually would have come in at more like 2:01:30.
I needed to average 9:10 per mile to hit my two hour goal. The official results say I averaged 9:11 per mile. My super cool Garmin GPS watch told me my average was 9:18 per mile. Cuz of those missing two-tenths of a mile.
What’s the truth?
And since I finished the race with no injuries and with new personal bests in both time and distance, and my girlfriend finished and shared victory beers with me, and my dad finished and shared victory bacon with me, and my good buddy finished and shared victory selfies with me… does that mean that those two-tenths of a second (or that minute and a half, WHATEVER) necessarily DEFINE my race?
So. Re-define “miracle.” My dad’s in his 60s. He completed his first half-marathon last year. His second one this year. Is already signed up for his third one next year.
And you better believe I’ll come in under two hours next year. Like, there is zero doubt. Not doubting that goal? Miracle.
This week… do something you know you can’t do. Just try it. Doesn’t have to be huge to have a huge impact on you.
While you do that new thing this week, I’ll be hanging up my medal. So that it hangs two-tenths of an inch off the wall.
So I’m running my fourth half-marathon this coming Sunday. And this will be the first time that I’ll be able to actually RUN the whole thing. No walking breaks! And aiming to come in under two hours, that’s my only goal.
If you’d seen me take my first step of running training, oh, five years ago, you wouldn’t believe that two hours was anywhere near realistic.
All that being said, listen to Michael Jordan. If I had made pancakes instead of pulling on my running pants and turning on my GPS watch, that wouldn’t have been the end of the world. Failure happens. When the thing we want is BIG, when we have prioritized something that upon first glance is EPIC, we will not always be able to resist the pull of pancakes. When that happens… when your chin is sticky with syrup and you’re in your sweat pants on the couch with bad TV on… listen to Michael Jordan. And next time… do a little better.
An ancillary… One of my playwriting students today just said the most terrific thing: When you’re exhausted, consider a rest rather than giving up. It’s good for writing. It’s also good for pretty much any goal you set yourself.
What you do every day… reflects your priorities. Reflects what you actually, truly WANT.
Expertise manifests from one thing and one thing only… repetition.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter, from the audience’s point of view, how you are feeling. It matters only what you DO. And if you practice DAILY, then even on those days went you aren’t necessarily “feeling” it, you will still be able to DO it.
It’s 2019, Apprentices. Decide what you want, and then DO THE THING, daily, that will enable you to manifest that want into reality.
I recall vividly believing so deeply in Santa Claus. And the Tooth Fairy. My father got me but GOOD with a Tooth Fairy story. He presented me with a Chinese checkers set (???) after a particularly painful tooth loss. He claimed that the Tooth Fairy was behind him in the department store checkout line, and insisted he bring this board game back to me. Boy howdy did I buy it.
My father also teamed up with some extended fam one year to convince both my brother and myself that Santa had put together a sweet RC racetrack for us. I am not too proud to admit that I may have squealed. We played on that thing for YEARS, long past the time when we both knew it had been dad and Uncle Gary putting that track together in the back room.
To come around to the first attachment, by G.K. Chesterton… is Santa a fairy tale? Even deeper, could we describe any of the various religious stories and traditions surrounding these holidays “fairy tales”? And does it matter if they are? Or aren’t? Because while dragons may not be pulling Santa’s sleigh (although how cool would THAT be??), the thread that connects all of the stories and songs and traditions at this time of year—at least to my mind—seems to be kindness. Grace. Gratitude. A reminder that the feelings and needs of others are just as vital and important as yours and mine. And is this not also the core of our theatrical enterprise… to put the catharsis of the audience above our own? It’s not surprising that theatre has for millennia been intimately tied to sacred rites and religious celebration, or that so many buildings that once were churches are repurposed as theaters.
We KNOW that dragons exist. Some of you may be battling them right now, as this season and its pressures can cause anxiety and isolation just as easily as joy and community. But as artists and as those who serve an audience, we know that those dragons are beatable. Maybe not easily. Maybe not with glory. But beatable nonetheless.
And any particular individual patron can never have precisely the same experience again, even if they come back the very next night.
This is not to say that writers, or painters, or filmmakers do not also have their process, but their processes result in a tangible finished THING. Is the THING the art, or is the reader’s/viewer’s/watcher’s experience of that thing the art? That’s a fun and baffling idea to contemplate, but regardless, that THING resides in a space BETWEEN the artist and the patron. Whereas the THING that is theatre can only reside in the space SHARED by the artist and the patron.
I do not compare to say one art is better than another. I compare to remind you that being a theatre artist means you must be present and vulnerable in terrifying ways. And that particular terror can make it easy to put things off. To procrastinate. To withhold. To self-censor.
To counteract that terror, I offer you two cookies this week. First... Batman. Batman will make you brave.
Second, this awesome quote from the fabulous feminist humorist Cynthia Heimel: “There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell? Leap.”
Leap. Like Batman off a building.
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.
Theatre pro, amateur yogi, and competent home cook.