Last night I had the chance to see a friend of mine perform in a cabaret, and after the show I had sometime to chat with his roommate, who had recently moved to NYC. She asked if I had any advice, as much as I wanted to say “YES! Find the Cinnamon Snail Vegan Food Truck and order EVERYTHING, Banana Republic ALWAYS has public bathrooms, and cabs HAVE to take you to Queens”, I turned off the sarcasm for a minute and honestly thought about it. I gave what wisdom I could, about persistence, staying motivated, always being prepared, not having expectations, and being kind to yourself. As we began to mingle with more people, I asked them their opinions, and universally we got the same answer “It’s all about being at the right place at the right time”.
Friday, March 9, 2012
I will admit I love a good heel. If you have read my blog, or have had a conversation with me you probably already know that I also live for a teasing comb, lipliner, and 15 coats of mascara. Now I know what you are all thinking, "I didn't know Tammy Faye Bakker was blogging posthumously?" Seriously though when I am getting ready for the day I sometimes refer to it as "getting into costume", and when when I am having a clean faced/sneakers kind of day I say I am having a "stars without their makeup" day. I swear all of this has a point. What I am trying to get at is that even though I am pushing 6 feet tall, even though my hair is big AND red, even though the face is full and the lashes are long, it does not give ANY BODY the right to yell "HEY GIRL DO THE CARPET MATCH THE DRAPES?!?"......that happened......(...and Nana if you are reading this, or if anyone else is reading this who was born before 1950, thats a phrase that a-holes use who are apparently really interested in the color of pubic hair...the drapes being the hair on your head, and the carpet being..well you get it).
As a woman living in New York City you eventually get used to this sort of thing. It is unfortunate, but you quickly learn that these people WANT you to get mad, they WANT you to get offended, and if I just keep walking, they lose. There are many different kinds of phrases that these dapper gentlemen like to shout. Real quick before I go any further, I am by no means the ONLY target of this. These people do this to any person who even slightly resembles a woman. I could leave the house in a pair of poopstained sweatpants, poopstained Uggs, and a messy bun with a poopstained scrunchie and there would be some douchebag on some stoop yelling "Yea Good Morning to YOU Miss, I like to watch you walk away!"....
There's the guys who yell the phrases that really make no sense in relation to being a "come on". A friend of mine often get's the "Good Morning!" as she walks down the street. I am not talking about the "Good Morning!" that is shouted throughout various crowd scenes in a ravishing 1943 Rogers and Hammerstein Musical, no my friends this is more of a pervy "I cannot take my eyes off your ass and I have been standing in front of this bodega for 14 hours and I would normally yell 'Let me stick $%$#%%#%$#$%' but my wife and kid is inside so this will have to do" kind of Good Morning! Another phrase along these lines is the "God Bless YOU!" Now I spent quite a few summers at Vacation Bible School, I learned all the words to "Rise and Shine and give God the Glory....Glory", however I must have missed the day when we were taught that when we bless our neighbor we have to be staring at their cleavage. I feel so breast...I mean blessed...I mean...
Then there are the guys that are just outright vulgar. The gem that I referred to in the first paragraph would probably be put into this category. I am not a demure lady. I am often gassy, profane, can binge on pizza, and occasionally...okay often, refer to shits by the number of matches required to extinguish the smell (ooh thats a TMD...two match dump). All that being said, for the most part I don't yell things at passerbys that should cost at least 2.99 a minute to hear. Mostly because we are in a recession and times are tough......nothing is for free. Listen people, these guys are pretty sick, there have been a few times when even I have had to stop and say..."gross". More often then not I stop...whip out my notepad and go "ooh! good one! ill remember that for tonight!". I don't mean to throw all of this on the guys, however I have only come in contact with one woman ever who was screaming sexual obscenities to other women...and actually she did it non stop from Chelsea to Queens on the N train, so I think she actually made up for all the lost time in that one 35 minute ride...
Then there are those who are not that gross, sometimes even endearing, but just have WAY too much to say. The other day I was walking down the street and this guy with a cane was screaming for people to give him money for food. I then walked by and he said "Wow looking at you makes me forget that I even got the shit beat out of me last week by those assholes and cant afford my rent or even a cup of coffee". I gave him a dollar, to which he replied "God Bless You". I think he meant it in the normal way, not the pervy "I want to do you" way....
Then there are the visualists. They do say actions speak louder than words, however in this case, I prefer a novel. Another friend of mine was telling me about the unisex sauna at the gym he attends. He said the men usually stick to one side and the ladies to other, mostly for convenience of location to the appropriate locker rooms. He said there was one precious man who decided to sit on the side closest to the ladies locker room, actually facing the locker room, and then start pleasuring himself. Now if I were in that sauna I may have sat down next to him and started asking him questions about the health history of his family and if there was a reason why he felt the need to give himself a routine self testicle checkup in the middle of the sauna? Or maybe I would have started singing "I don't want anybody else when i'm in the sauna I TOUCH MYSELF!"....but really dude, gross. My friend took the mature route and spoke to an employee about the situation, but why does this happen?
Why do people, men, women, whatever, feel the need to do such things. There have even been days when I have thought to myself, on those days when I am wearing heels, and I look all fancy "Ya know what, its my own fault I dressed up, I was asking for it.." NO! I was not asking for it, do those guys running down the street shirtless always have to worry about women screaming "LET ME SEE THAT $%^&!" Not often. I mean I am sure it happens, and I am sure there will be some people that will try to argue this and talk about what men go through, and I am also sure unicorns exist. People are pigs. People yell gross shit at people who don't deserve it, sometimes they even stick their hands down their pants while doing it. It should probably just stop.
There have been a few times when someone has said something to me along the lines of a "pick up line" that was sweet, that I replied to with "thank you", and went along my way...but do these people who act like those I have mentioned above, seriously think that their tactics will work? EVER? I mean call me old fashioned but I don't picture anyone sitting down with their grandparents and saying "Grandma how did you meet Grandpa?" and Grandma saying "Well honey, I was walking down the street, and Grandpa was on the stoop with his hands down his pants screaming 'BITCH LET ME TAP THAT!!!' I knew he was the one..."
Friday, March 2, 2012
Guys, I don't mean to brag here, but I did win the "When I Grow Up" Speech Competition in the 3rd grade. I wowed the judges with my yearn to be on Broadway, telling them that someday someone would hear MY voice on a cassette tape! I also talked about how much I loved Carol Channing and that I had discovered my calling whilst in the chorus of the King and I. This morning as I sit here with my oversized mug of black coffee, getting some writing down before I have to head off to play waitress, I look back at this time and smile. It is important to remember these things, not only because it really gives me a clear vision of why I am still single, but also reminds us to go back to that place where anything is possible. Now, before I continue I will have to come to terms with the fact that I may not be able to hear my voice on a cassette tape seeing as though this is 2012 and I think I missed that boat in about '97, also I think i finally retired my Channing tee-shirt (yes I had one, that I wore...to school....often), and outside of the Metro-Detroit area, I doubt anyone will ever be able to find a place for me in the children's chorus of the King and I. Oh well, at least I have the memories.....MOVING ON!
Basically what I am trying to get to here is that growing up is scary. When you are young you have so many dreams, some are big, some are more realistic, some will come true, and some we are too afraid to go after. As we grow the things that seemed so important to us then are not as important now. In highschool our parents were constantly telling us "In 10 years, NONE of this will matter". They were right. It doesn't. I thought my life was going to be over when I couldn't go with the Marching Band on the trip to Hollywood. Folks, I survived, I also heard the trip we had to Cleveland, Ohio was a better time anyways. What is important are those things that stay with us. Well most things that stay with us, the awkward backfat and muffintop I have been trying to get rid of for years, that shit can go fuck itself and doesn't matter anyway. What I am talking about are those things that we talk to our friends about when we are younger, the same things that we eventually work towards in high school, those dreams that help us choose our path in college, those goals we talk about until 4 AM when we are screaming for one more vodka soda and convincing our friends that "our lives start tomorrow!", those things, the things that have stayed with us even when we realized Zack and Kelly wouldn't last past Bayside High, and that the Backstreet Boys were actually awkward looking. The things that seem much harder once the bar stool is pushed in, and your fear is on display. For me, today, growing up is about being who you always wanted to be, and growing into who you are meant to be, and loving who you are turning out to be. Growing up is ultimately acceptance...which is hard.
With so many social media websites around, it is hard for us not to compare ourselves with one another. While on Facebook I see the lives of those I went to high school with. Most of them married, with children, and a house..with a washer and dryer. This is when I begin to fear that I am not growing up. I am sitting in my Queens apartment that I share with 2 other people, I just finally graduated out of a twin bed this past year, and I have to play restaurant at night in order to pay my bills. This is also when I have to stop and breathe and say "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." Actually I never say that but I did just watch The Help last night and I really needed to throw that in here at some point. But seriously, this is when I have to stop and say you got out of Warren, MI and moved to NYC, you have lived here without struggling for 4 years, you have a job, you woke up on Black Friday and said "I AM BETTER THAN THIS TWIN BED!" and hauled your ass to the mattress store and bought a big girl bed, this is growth. This is growing up.
Most importantly I have to look at my life through the eyes of the 9 year old Elise. The 9 year old Elise that would have done ANYTHING to achieve her dreams. When I look at my life through her eyes, everything seems to be going at the right pace. When I am on the subway coming home late, when I start to look less like a classy server and more like Deb the Diner waitress, when I get up far too early to wait in line at an audition, when I don't wakeup for the audition because I don't know if thats what I want to be anymore, when I feel like my time will never come, and when I feel like my heart is so full, I have to think of her. I have to remember that sometimes growing up is just about looking back, sometimes growing up is about gratitude, and sometimes growing up is about the small things.
In closing, I would like to say that I was ultimately disqualified from the competition in the 3d grade. Once I got to the district level my plan was to win over the judges with my velvety 9 year old tenor chords. I closed my speech with the following "..as Judy Garland so beautifully sang in the Wizard of Oz, If happy little blue birds..."
"Miss Castle, you cannot sing any copywritten material without the consent of the author...you are disqualified..."
Monday, February 6, 2012
It was the summer of 2001. I was waiting patiently inline for a callback audition for the summer community theatre production of Annie. Inside I was filled with excitement and anticipation, I mean I had just finished a riveting portrayal of Golde in Fiddler on the Roof...at 15 years old. Outside, I probably looked a bit like Tracy Turnblad mixed with Napoleon Dynamite. A little big, a little awkward, and probably wearing a tee-shirt that said "Future Broadway Star". I was clutching my Broadway Hits for Tenors songbook and nervously eyeing my competition. I was a showgirl at heart, but extremely shy and had yet to discover a flatiron or a good box dye. As I was staring off into space just dreaming that they would decide to cast a bit young for Miss. Hannigan a voice caught me off guard.
"Hey! Im Billy, this is Sara, and this is Jason! Whats your name?!"
I looked over my shoulder and there was a group of 3 people sitting next to me.
"Uhhmmm....Elise" I replied. These people were definitely showgirls inside AND out. I was nervous, I didn't know what to say, I also had no clue that this moment would really change my life.
"Well, Elise.." said Billy "We are just sitting here trying to liven the joint up a bit, and really think a production number of "Summer Nights" from Grease is appropriate, do you know the words?"
"YES!" I Replied "I actually played Jan last year!"
"Perfect!" Said Billy "By the way.." he continued "I'm going to call you Jan!"
At that moment I forgot about how self conscious I was, I forgot about the intense amount of fear I had for the dance combination, I forgot about every little bit of high school bullshit that made me feel "different". These people spoke my language, the universal language of showtunes. If we were going to do this number, we were going to do it right. I believe we found a picnic table, perched up on it (side saddle of course), and sang. Tell me more, tell me more, it was love at first sight. I belonged.
That summer, Summer of '01 as it was infamously called was filled with moments just like this. My heart was so full, for once I had found people who understood me, who despite my outward appearance KNEW that inside I had the heart of a middle aged show queen, and that I yearned to wear lashes and Max Factor panstick daily....and a good brooch. My new friends were introduced to my old friends, and new memories were made.
We had sleepovers that only consisted of binge eating, watching Little Shop of Horrors or Spice World, and makeovers. Oh the makeovers. Some of the boys were flirting with the idea of beauty school and I loved being the model. I was able to sport the full face and big hair I dreamed of, all the while helping my friends achieve their dreams! We laughed a lot, of course we argued, but most of all we accepted each other. Nothing shocked us, dispite how we felt about ourselves we all had open minds and open hearts.
I don't know why I was inspired to write about this today. I think its because I am grateful. I am grateful that I had these moments, I am grateful I had these friends (some I still have to this day). I am grateful that at 15, when I was so insecure, so shy, and "misunderstood", that a little bit of glitz was brought into my life, a glimpse of what my life would be like. Today I live the same way I learned to that summer, a little spontaneous, always with an open heart, and ALWAYS ready to recreate a good production number. Here's to the Summer of '01, thanks for giving this girl a spotlight.
Monday, January 23, 2012
I will admit I am a little crazy. More importantly I am OK with it. Not only am I OK with my crazy, I embrace my crazy. I feel as if it makes me who I am, well that and a lot of hairspray. Not gonna lie, there have been days when I am walking down the streets thinking my crazy thoughts and wondering "Am I only 3 cats away from being a full out Edie Beale Grey Gardens case?". Then I think "Ya' know? What if I am? At least I have got a good story to tell, and I always have loved a good head scarf"
I have always been fascinated with the correlation of mental illness and creativity. Some of the most brilliant artists have turned out some of their best work in a manic episode or a deep depression. These artists are so lost in themselves that the only way to escape is to create an alternative universe. They create a world through music, painting, words, and dance that takes them out of themselves, and in many cases results in brilliant work. I have not been as fortunate as to create a brilliant opera, or museum worthy painting when I am in the throws of depression. I however, have worn out my VHS copy of "Beaches" and can OWN a pint of "Oatmeal Cookie Chunk" Ice Cream.
Just today I was discussing with a friend how I think some of the best performers are those with a little "grit" in their story. They've been through some shit, in some cases they may even have 14 personalities, but they can usually tell a good story. I then got to thinking that maybe if they ran the auditions a little differently we'd be able to snatch up these "broken gems" and weed out the boring ones.
Actor : Good afternoon! I will be performing 16 bars from....
Random Casting Director: Hold On! Before you start, do you have any daddy issues?
Actor : Umm...No I had a great family life.
RCD: Thank you thats all I need to see today.
Actor : Hello! Would you like to hear the classical piece or the..
RCD : One minute! Have you ever resorted to prostitution in order to survive?
Actor : Actually I am a virgin and..
RCD : NEXT!
Actor :...well only because I have severe issues with opening up to people and don't really love myself and therefor do not think I will ever be capable of loving another, or ever allowing someone to love me.
RCD : Perfect. I will see you at the callback.
Of course there will be exceptions to the rules. Those people who have held on to their marbles, have a happy relationship, come from the perfect family with the perfect house and the perfect dog, and can still deliver like the craziest. However you think they do good work now? Wait until her husband leaves her for the man that was actually once married to her mother and she is now addicted to pills, malt liquor, and daytime soap operas. In between her wine coolers and her tears she'll begin to create. You thought she was delivering before, now she's giving you ART. As my grandmother always said "A sane mind can never sell The Man That Got Away". Actually my grandmother never said that, but I think it's true, and I think she should fully take credit for it and share it with the ladies at church.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
What happens when a family full of musicians, actors, singers, and relatively insane people all get together for a holiday? Most would say "Drama!" or "Drunken fights!". No. Not in the Castle household. We put our talents to work. Once the table has been cleared and the dessert has begun to digest, we all reconvene with our weapon of choice in hand. It is time to begin, FAMILY BAND!
For as long as I can remember my father has always brought his guitar with him to family gatherings. At the end of the night he would play, and the family would all sing together. Sometimes other relatives would chime in if they had an instrument and my Uncle Dan was always keeping rhythm with the spoons. At the time I didn't realize how special this was.
As the years passed, the family band grew. My brother followed in my fathers footsteps and learned the guitar, friends we had made had become family, and our family had become larger as well. The Castle Family Singers (I really wish we had a name like the Brady Bunch, or at least matching track suits) had acquired a full band behind them. At one gathering my mother decided to pass out instruments, tinwhistles, bongos, a sensible 1934 bugle, shakers, and the list goes on. You know, just the typical things every family has laying around the house. I always looked forward to this time, but I didn't know how special this really was.
The strumming and singing that had always just happened organically began to become one of the most anticipated portions of the evening. We began to call it "Family Band", and in true Castle fashion poked fun at it and ourselves for participating in it, and secretly couldn't wait for it to start. We no longer had to wrangle up the family and explain what was going on, we knew. We sat on the floor and grabbed our instruments. My dad got his Martin D-28 out of the same blue hardshell case, and began to strum the familiar chords. In unison we began, "Puff the Magic Dragon, lived by the sea, and harbored in the autumn mist...."
I haven't been able to return home for the holidays in a few years. Some of my family has moved, and we rarely get the chance to see each other. I am surprisingly emotional as I write this morning. Like I previously wrote, I didn't know how special this was. It seemed so normal to me, it was all that I knew. Today on Thanksgiving, I am filled with gratitude. My heart is so full with these wonderful memories. No matter what was going on in the family, no matter what stresses were engulfing our lives, for those moments we were all in bliss. I hope someday soon there will be a time when we are all together, when my dad grabs his guitar, Uncle Dan grabs the spoons, and we all just sit around and let go.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Today I went for a haircut. As I sat in the chair I looked at my hair and thought, girl, we've been through it all.
The first major hair change that I can recall happened when I was about 5 or 6. I had long blonde hair and I was obsessed with Pippi Longstocking. I decided I wanted to have hair like Anika (Pippi's sidekick), so I did. I got it all chopped off into a Anika-bob! Looking back at this experience I can really see how I was destined for mediocrity at a young age. Really Elise? You wanted the Anika, the supporting character? No Mom, I don't want to be Annie, I wanna be the butch orphan, Dixie, thats my DREAM!
Things pretty much stayed at a standstill "locks-wise" until high-school. A few of my friends and I had decided as a group that we were all going to go "bleached-blonde". Some groups of friends in high-school have pregnancy pacts, my friends and I were bound together by boxes of Clairol. Cheap. Boxed. Hairdye. This was also around the same time where one of my friends had decided to take up "braiding". He was very good at doing all this intricate braid-work and we all agreed to be models. Picture this. Mob of relatively awkward/uncomfortable females with bleach blonde hair braided in the style of Salt N' Peppa on their way to Marching Band rehearsal. I think every school dance I went to had a hairstyle involving braids and we also somehow incorporated the braids into the school plays (Renaissance braids, 1950's braids, Anetevka braids). In our defense the braids worked very well under our band hats and really thats all that matters.
Later on in highschool I chopped my hair and died it brown with chunky brown highlights. My initial intention was to look like Kelly Clarkson circa "Moment Like This". My weight at the time made this look more Tracy Turnblad than anything. That wasn't a winning moment. So I did what any lady would do. Grew it out and bleached it again....
I continued to bounce back and forth between colors. I was blonde, then brown, then highlights, then RED. In 2005 I went to a salon and decided to go red. It was a risk but I figured I had nothing to lose. After the color was completed I knew I had found a match. Friends agreed and I knew I was in a LTR with red hair.
Now throughout the years it has been a lot of trial and error in order to find something that really "works". I have been almost every shade of red. Maroon to orange. True Red Pomegranate to #69 Spicy Salsa (The legit names of the Garnier box dye I used in college). There were years when I was rocking some blonde eyebrows with my crimson locks, and many times when my hair looked like Josephs Dreamcoat (it was red and yellow and green and brown....). After 6 and a half years I would like to say that I have figured it out. No more boxed dye, I request a natural looking red at the salon, and MAC makes a great eyebrow mascara in a shade called Girlboy (which I love for me) that matches my haircolor PERFECT!
So thats the riveting tale of my hair. FYI I got bangs today. It was a reallly big deal. I mean I have had bangs before, actually I have had them for most of the past 6 years. They had finally grown out and I was worried I was going to somehow look like I did this one time I got this awful bang induced haircut that made me look like George Washington. I am pleased to say that these bangs are not colonial at all. This is some 21st century bang shit.