Tuesday, February 25, 2014


As we continue through our final months on tour, the artists, families, and staff of Totem find new ways of bonding.  Sometimes we help each other navigate the next round of decisions: Tanya is figuring out how she will fly with a newborn baby to Portland.  Oyuna is examining the costs of travel visas to New Zealand.  Massimo and Tamir are planning to sell their cars in Portland.  Micha is looking for a place to offer his new workshop in Vancouver.  etc…

And personal milestones continue to take place.  This week the kids spent a day at a Family Fun Center playing mini golf, arcade games, and laser tag, and driving go-karts, to celebrate Yahor's 12th birthday. We just celebrated Anthony's 14th and Sophia's 16th, and we're about to enter the round of spring birthdays.  The children continue to be a tight family unit, with their sibling-esque squabbles, and their intense loyalty to one another.  Baz got glasses this past week.  When I told the other kids he was having a hard time with it, they rallied around him, telling him how great he looked.  Before the end of the day, he had relaxed about wearing them.

On Monday night, about a hundred company members of Totem - employees, and OAMs - turned out at the Schkapf theater in Hollywood to watch an in-progress showing of Micha's new show, Inside. It was a beautiful evening, with so many people outpouring their love and enthusiasm for Micha.  Micha had lots of helpers for this show, from sound, lights, and costume to actual characters on stage - and it is a mark of everyone's mutual respect, how much they are willing to give of their time and energy.

Every once in a while I realize how much we are all prepared to support one another.  Greg borrows a suit from Eric.  I scoop up Alya's daughter for the day when Alya is at home sick.  Sophia brings the kids home from school when I'm running late.  Francis, Jeff and I swap business and marketing stories.  The technicians help Greg build stuff in their shop.  Anouk teaches a free Pilates class on the beach.  Nick tightens up a trapeze for me. I read English books to the little Russian girls.  And on and on and on.  The ways in which we contribute to each other's lives are too numerous to count.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Magic Castle

Last night was an exceptional treat - visiting a place I'd been hearing about since I was a teenager - LA's legendary Magic Castle.  Invitations were wrangled from friends of friends, and Tom Antonellis, Scott Jameson, Greg and I had a beautiful, memorable evening out.

As an elite, private club for magicians and their guests, the Magic Castle has a strict dress code, rules and schedules, pricey cover charges, elegant bars and a dining room.  The club is open every night of the week - we went late night on a Sunday, and it was full of people.  Entrance to the club (through a magically-opening bookcase door, pictured) leads to a labyrinthine old mansion filled with magic memorabilia, beautiful decor, and performances - some on small stages, some close-up, others at bars.

Time for a little history here.  I had a fleeting affair with magic in highschool - it lasted long enough for me to acquire a couple of books and props, visit magic shops and a convention, and make some friends.  (it didn't last long enough for me to acquire any actual sleight-of-hand skills, however!)  Scott and Tom are friends of mine from that era.  They pursued magic more seriously than I did - Tom mainly as a hobbyist, though he did do some shows back in the day - and Scott has been working as a professional magician for almost 20 years now.

My delight as a magic audience member has never waned, and the evening at the Castle was like a sugar rush.  I was on the edge of my seat for the coin tricks, the card tricks, the doves, the scarves, the balls and cups and even the linking rings.  We saw some very traditional magic and some very unusual magic.  Most of all we saw performing artists who are masters at the craft of presentation.

I deeply admire the Magic Castle as an institution.  To take the art form of magic and give it such a luxurious, treasured home!  Magicians are given the highest respect - homage to past practitioners, celebration of current ones.  You can sit a few feet away from a masterful performance in a tiny, velvet-draped theater, and have a conversation with the performer afterwards.  It is a warm atmosphere of appreciative friends, a place to revel in performance art, a fine-dining experience with impeccable service, and a museum and library, all at once.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Aaargh…. clipless pedals!

"The difference it makes in your riding will be gigantic"

"Optimum comfort and efficiency"

"[they] will enhance your enjoyment of riding your bike tenfold"

"you'll feel naked without them"

"Once you go clipless, you'll never go back"

So say all of the books, Web sites, and cyclist friends.  But I'm worried that in my efforts to become a badass "real" cyclist, I may have stepped over the line with this one.  I bought myself special cycling shoes and "clipless" pedals this week, which are named badly, because you actually do clip into them.  And they present a nice stability for steady riding - but as a newbie, they make stopping and starting (and anticipation of stopping and starting) terrifying.  You have to think ahead, unclip your cleat from the pedal in advance (by jerking it sideways, which I'm still stumbling over), and then lean in the correction direction when you stop.  Starting back up, you have to clip into one pedal, give yourself a push, and then fumble into the other clip, quickly.

I'm going to try to believe everyone, that very soon I won't even have to think about it, but my rides these last two days have been white-knuckled.  I haven't actually fallen over, but I've come very close, with a couple of last-minute saves halfway down.  I am not convinced that I am going to fall in love with these gizmos.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A great birthday

Kids Circus Class in the morning… Alya got me to climb to the top of the fabric, and then had all the children serenade me with the Happy Birthday song.

Then I went out for a 3-hour bike ride!

And I had a massage!

And Chinese takeout with the kids!

Not to mention the Facebook love… it's hard to remember what birthdays were like before hundreds of your closest friends were sending you wishes from around the world.  It's always incredibly heartwarming to see who reaches out.

38 years old… I think I'm officially in the "almost-40" zone….

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Kids on flying trapeze!

Best school field trip ever.

Two videos of Baz, Ayla, and Isa's flights today on the Santa Monica Pier.  This is the longer (7-min) one, just showing them flying.


Here is the shorter (4-minute) edited version, with the highlights and some instructional pieces.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tanya's baby shower

The Russian wives approached me a few months ago to talk about baby showers.  We've had a lot of them on tour, and they said, "we always do them the same way.  maybe for Tanya's shower, since you're close to her, you can run it?  and do something different?"  I was a bit stumped by this request.  Something different?  They wanted to know what American showers are like.  I haven't been to that many, myself - but the ones I have been to have been big affairs, 30-40 attendees.  The new parents both participate, and the shower isn't a surprise.  No games, either - for such a big gathering, people are generally happy to socialize.

Showers on tour are a different situation.  It's the same 8 or 9 women, those of us who see each other all the time.  The food is Russian, the games are traditional.  (if I never have to play the "taste the baby food and guess what it is" game again, it will be too soon.)

I was pleased to take on the challenge.  To start with, I had to convince Tanya of the merits of a baby registry.  (unheard of in this community).  Over a few months I worked on this with her, and finally she got a decent registry together.

Then, after doing some Internet research, I landed on an idea for the shower - instead of playing games, we could do a project together!  And decided on a baby quilt.  Note ...I do not sew.  I do not quilt.  But the Internet instructions seemed pretty clear, and with some assistance I thought we could pull it off.  One of my key invitees was Genevieve, from the costume department!  Who conveniently is a good friend of Tanya's, and also offered to bring us a sewing machine.

In the weeks before the shower, my Mom (quilter!) helped me assemble the pieces I'd need.  We found fabric, cut squares, bought fabric markers.  In the meantime I collected shower decorations, and told the Russian wives that if I was going to do this, they had to provide all the food.  Which they happily agreed to.

Also in buildup for this, I had to re-schedule my Russian/English lessons with Tanya for Tuesdays, the only day Genevieve was free.  I did this for three weeks, convincing her to walk (yes, 8 months pregnant) the 30 minutes to my apartment each time.

And then today was the event!  I called Tanya to make sure she was coming to our lesson.  Then we cleaned, decorated, and set up - all of the other women arrived early with tons of food and drinks.  All the children were in tow (it being a Tuesday), so the place was a chaotic dance party in no time.

They did manage to shush enough to completely surprise Tanya when she walked in the door.  Throwing handfuls of confetti, blowing noisemakers.  It was a great moment.

The rest of the (4-hour) party was food, and present-opening, and quilt-crafting.  We all participated - some just by drawing on the quilt squares, others by ironing and organizing them.  Genevieve did the most work, sitting with her sewing machine and putting the whole thing together over the course of the evening.  It was a thrilling sense of accomplishment to see it finished!  We still need to put together the backing and border, but the hard part is done.

Here we are, this group of women friends, seeing each other through milestones in city after city.  We had the stunningly wonderful news this week that Nastia B is pregnant with a baby girl.  Nastia, my dear friend, has been trying to get pregnant for years, and they have two older boys.  Both she and Aliaksei have been dying for a little girl - and in the meantime she has babysat, taught, and played with baby girl after baby girl (so many of them have been born on tour in the last few years!)  It is finally her turn.

Of course, that means we'll have one more baby shower to throw....

Monday, February 3, 2014

A weekend in Philadelphia, in blurry photographs

Whirlwind trips through Philly are, generally, a blur, and so all I can do is show you a few fuzzy images of my quick trip there this past weekend.  Homesickness is running high now ... leaving to come back to LA felt emotionally wrenching.  Only a few more months till we are all back where we belong.

Keeping myself occupied at the Summer Camp Fair

The new FringeArts building - touring potential venues for a fall event

The practical joke of things stuck in the rafters at PSCA lives on.
At least someone has attached a safety cable to this unicycle.  

walking by our house.  (stalking)

I was in love with my little Ford Fiesta rental car until I had to drive it in a snowstorm.  

Spent time with Kitsie and Jasper in the hospital!  Newborn snuggle time.  
Other moments unfortunately not captured on my camera - running a big Open House at PSCA, taking Rebecca out for a birthday dinner, getting the car stuck in the snow and having to be plowed out by our neighbors at Dan's Car Care.