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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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throwback Thursday

nope. can’t do it.

When I was a senior in high school, I did something that defied all the parameters of shy girl status: I auditioned for a musical in my high school.

*cue shock*

Yes, your Square Peg, who enjoyed life behind the shadows, who always volunteered to be the narrator (and when she wrote her own stuff made herself the narrator, thank you very much), decided very much on an adolescent whim that she would audition for the spring musical that her high school was putting on, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ForumLots of innuendo, lots of farce. I knew nothing about the musical prior to auditioning. There was no Wikipedia back then. Anyway, I loved the title, I loved musicals, I loved theater, I loved my school’s drama teacher (who was also my beloved Film Studies teacher when I was a sophomore and introduced me to the wonder of Citizen Kane, among other things), and I was high on this adolescent whim. I knew I could sing. So why not?

How to Audition for a Musical (Or How Not to, Depending on your Perspective)

  1. If you’re 17 (or 35 or 59 or whatever) and a veteran of several chorus classes, it would be nice to know how to read music. Because guess what? I didn’t know how to read music. (Still don’t.) When I was handed the music for the songs I would be singing that afternoon, Comedy Tonight and Lovely, I might as well have been handed stacks of hieroglyphics. And I probably had a better chance of deciphering those than the music I was given…
  2. …but because I was learn music by ear, I waited until dead last night to audition for each song. This gave me time to listen carefully to the notes, the melody, the arrangement, and allowed me to actually stand on stage and sing. Not too shabby, either.
  3. It might be a good idea to remember that even though you’re one of dozens that are auditioning, you can’t go up on stage with those people. You actually have to stand at the front of the stage and sing. Alone. And yet, moments before cardiac arrest took over as I approached the stage…
  4. …I found a way to position myself by the piano and not really at the front of the stage and I focused on my drama teacher, who was awesome and encouraging and likely CPR-certified in case I did keel over from the fright and butterflies.

I got through it, you guys. And I had fun.

But remember when I said I knew nothing about the musical? Well, although I didn’t score the lead roles of Philia or Pseudolus (and this was really no surprise; other than pretending like I don’t want to strangle rude people, your Square Peg is hardly an actress), I still got a role in the musical.

The role? A courtesan.

If you check out the link to the musical, you’ll see see that the story takes place in ancient Rome, where a slave (Pseudolus) tries to win his freedom by helping his master woo a courtesan named Philia. Well, there would be a house filled with other courtesans along with Philia, and I got a role as one of them. I think her name was Vibrata.

Except, even though your Square Peg is a wordsmith, she wasn’t quite sure what a courtesan was. So, while overcome with excitement at landing her first role in a musical, she went home and went to her trusty dictionary, where she looked up the word.

courtesan (noun): a prostitute with a courtly, wealthy, or upper-class clientele

Yep, I went right to my beloved drama teacher and told him that there was no way I could be in the musical. Excuses about my parents not really feeling the amount of time I would spend outside of school were given. And no, they wouldn’t have cared for that, but you know the bigger issue, don’t you? My mother would have somehow learned that I was playing a hooker. And she would have killed me dead. I mean, as sneaky as I was in getting away with staying out late or hanging out with people she didn’t really know, the heavens would have revealed it to her in a dream. No doubt. Just like she knew that her oldest daughter was making funny faces behind her back one day (without turning around), my mother would have discovered the truth. And your Square Peg would be no Square Peg at all, because, again, I would have been killed dead.

My drama teacher was very understanding. Maybe he knew the real truth, that an African girl playing a hooker–no matter how tame it would be for a high school production–would have been shipped back to the Motherland in a pine box.

I was in the audience on opening night, cheering on my friends in the show, cheering on the director, cheering on the brave girl who replaced me. And in the back of my mind, imagining the death that would have been unleashed by my mother’s hands. So along with all that cheering was massive, massive relief.

I still love the theater, of course. Musicals, plays: the stage continues to thrill and amaze me. And it’s even sweeter from the comfort of my seat. Haaaaaa.

“…wings of her own.”

I wrote this poem seven years ago. Bon Throwback Thursday.

 

Mrs. Birdman

 

When he finally lands,

the odds are that she’ll be waiting for him by the riverside.

He’ll tell marvelous tales

of the sweet air up there, of racing with skylarks and ravens,

that near-miss with the eagle…

She’ll tell him that Billy lost his tooth, and that Sally started walking.

He’ll smile and ask if they remember him and she’ll lie and say that

they do.

She’ll cry when he says that he has to go again,

(“I thought you’d stay longer this time”)

and he’ll placate her with promises that they both know

will fly away faster than he can, never to be seen or heard of

again.

Up, up, up, he’ll go, the Man who makes the sky that much

more unique, as they all like to say.

She’ll continue by the riverside,

waiting,

too morose and too teary-eyed

to realize what he hopes she never will,

that she’s always had

wings of her own.

Throwback Thursday: The Scowler.

SquarePeg1

Meet your Square Peg, a.k.a., me.

I found this photo in my mom’s “secret” stash of photos one evening last week. I should tell you that my mother’s things–her clothes, perfume, shoes, etc.,–have long fascinated me, which means that since I was little girl, sneaking into her room to see what I could find and gaze at lovingly remains a pastime. Don’t worry: I leave most things undisturbed. Except the clothes. Anyway, I love that she keeps hidden photos and mementos that we don’t have access to. When I found this, I snapped a quick photo and placed it back into its hiding place.

This was taken in August 1983 in Accra, Ghana. I was 4 years old. I’m 100% sure my Dad was the photog, being that he loved taking photos of his children and family, even when we were sullen teens and refused to smile.

My birthplace and my home.

That Mustang, which was my mother’s. (Yep, Mama Square Peg rocked a Mustang!)

Those fat braids. (This was obviously was my go-to style.)

That dress.

Those shoes.

That face.

Oh, that face. Most photos from back, back, back in the day rarely found me smiling. I was a serious kid. I discovered those teeth a bit later, as you can also see from that ruffled, picture day photo. Other ones are of me coolly staring into the camera, as if we’re moments from battle. Ah, memories.

Happy Throwback Thursday.

would you like a magazine?

When I was a teenager, the answer to that question would have been yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. Back then, I was a connoisseur of all things glossy reading materials: the goal was to spend every bit of my pocket money (the African parent’s version of allowance) on any magazine I could feast my eyes on. From the fashion bibles (Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, etc.) to the women’s magazines brimming with articles that I totally didn’t identify with but read anyway (looking at you, Cosmopolitan), to my beloved teen mags (Sassy, Seventeen, Teen, YM, etc.), to the entertainment magazines that I loved so (Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weeklyetc.)–the addiction was so, so real.

collage
Image courtesy of Fanpop.

In hindsight, I think the magazines represented a version of life that seemed so glamorous and glitzy; hardly anything like my boring teen life in Somewheres, VA. These days, you can hardly bribe me to spend money on a magazine. Funny, how something that was once a crutch becomes unnecessary when you 1) grow up; 2) realize that “glamour” is utterly relative and fleeting; 3) would rather spend money on dinner and a play than a glossy read about something that won’t matter the next day. My sharp-eyed readers will read that last two statements and wonder about all the magazines that bear the lovely chocolate face of my Lupita, muttering to themselves that they know I’ve purchased those. No, my dear ones. I read the articles online and gaze at my queen through a computer screen. Welcome to the dawn of a new generation. The few mags I’ve actually flipped through have come to me via my mother’s subscriptions. I will admit this, though: the best thing about that airport life is flipping through those silly gossip rags. The best thing, as well, is recycling them once I get back to reality. (Do you view the airport like I do? An Oz where things like carbs and healthy eating don’t matter, where pretzels can be chewed with abandon while you chuckle over the latest antics of yet another starlet unable to make good life choices?)

I digress, as usual. The point of this post isn’t to look back in anger or regret. Here’s to that 15 year-old eagerly taking in the words and images crowding the pages of yet another shiny magazine. Because a few good things came out of the obsession. For one, I didn’t just stick with fashion and teen journals. I also devoured TimeLife, Newsweek: all of which fed my hunger for stories about real people and real life, certainly a boon for my fiction. Another thing: I accumulated enough facts to join any trivia team and win it for the team. Use my brain. I don’t mind. Lastly, it was fun! I have awesome memories of afternoons spent on my unmade bed, going through magazine after magazine, smiling at the sights I saw, reading until it was time for dinner. It really did make Boring Teen Life slightly less ordinary.

Are you a magazine lover?

Elegant? Why, Thank You. (Fabu Fashion TBT)

Hey, y’all.

On Monday of this week, I wore a pencil skirt that I snagged from Nordstrom Rack (they built one by my house, so I officially bid all my money goodbye) and a peplum top that I’ve had for a million years. (Last Monday; therein lies the tbt.) I didn’t even think about it. Wasn’t that particularly exciting as far as outfits go. I just put it on and came to work like I do every day against my will. So imagine my surprise when two colleagues complimented me on how elegant I looked. When wearing a simple outfit and some flats you scored from your mother’s closet, you’re not thinking elegant. But I’ll take it. Some photos below.

pepskirt1 pepskirt2

Happy Thursday…

The Brit Baby

BennyHill
The rascal himself, Benny Hill.

I have memories of sitting in the living room with my Mom and siblings and laughing uproariously as we watched episodes of Benny Hill. Never mind that there was plenty of innuendo in that rascal’s old show, 100 percent of which not one of us kids understood–other than loving the zany music and physical comedy, it was all part of my British television upbringing. Ever since I can remember, British TV shows were in our household. My mother fed off all things Brit, and as such, shared her love with us. (Dad was more of the golden age of comedy lover: Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Lucille Ball. Needless to say, I got my sweet fill of those performers and their films/TV shows, as well.) From those old days until now, you can typically find me watching TV fare from across the pond. Here are some of my old and new favorites:

Are You Being Served? Seriously, I can watch episodes of this 70s-era show about hilarious staffers of a Harrods’ like department store all day. The antics of the kooky employees of Grace Brothers bring tears to my eyes, so much so that when I watch episodes during lunchtime at the OK Corrall, I have to remember that although I’m hiding in a vacant office, people in the hallway can hear me screeching with laughter. If you haven’t watched it, please, please do.

Keeping Up Appearances. The title says it all: Mrs. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced BOUQUET, if you didn’t know) would do anything to prevent her neighbors–with whom she’s created a hilarious facade of class and elitism–from finding out the actual truth about her life: her ne’er-do-well son, her blue-collar sisters and brother-in-law, and her crazy father. Absolutely hysterical. The best is how quickly most of her neighbors (and strangers and postmen and her husband) try to avoid her when they see her coming.

Hercule Poirot. Oh, boy. Goodness. I’ll be brief: I love everything about Masterpiece’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famous detective. Everything. I’ve seen 99% of the episodes. It’s set in London (and almost everywhere else around the world) during the age of Art Deco and the 1930s, with Poirot and his little Belgian gray cells (played by the amazing David Suchet) solving murders and assorted crimes with his associate, Captain Hastings. The show feeds my love of mystery, detectives, and the fashion/jargon of the Thirties. So well-written and well-acted.

areyou
The cast of Are You Being Served?

Miss Marple. Like all my Brit TV favorites, my mom turned me on to Miss Marple, especially the latest episodes with Julia McKenzie playing the intelligent and resourceful detective. Just plain good. I especially love the guest stars that pop up here and there in some of the episodes, like Matthew Macfadyen, the second Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, or half the cast of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Again, if there’s a detective snooping around to solve a mystery, you can be sure I’m there.

Sherlock. I think this made it clear that I’m a fan. If you need more evidence, it’s arguably one of the best, most wonderfully written shows on the telly today. More opinion than evidence, but we can discuss it if you want to. (No, not really.)

 

Oh, Hyacinth.
Oh, Hyacinth.
Judi!
Judi!
The famous Hercule Poirot.
The famous Hercule Poirot

 

 

As Time Goes By. This show usually preceded Are You Being Served on the TV schedule. In the beginning, I watched it with Mom only because the show I really wanted to see was coming afterward, but in the end, I began to join this sweet show about a couple that reunites after years apart. The leading lady was one of my favorites, Judi Dench, so it’s no surprise that it ended up growing on me.

Honorable mentions go to The Vicar of Dibley, One Foot in the Grave, Waiting for God, and especially Last of the Summer Wine, a show about aging goofballs in a small town in the English countryside that found a rabid fan in my little brother. Seriously, he still has episodes of the show on VHS. VHS.

Shout out to Mom for creating Brit TV loving monsters. If anything, more than comedy and entertainment, we were introduced to a culture other than our own.

Mr. Pitt.

Not this Mr. Pitt.

MrPitt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one.

I’ll refrain from typing too many adjectives about him or going too far with this. Just know that I fell in love with him when I was 15. It was during this scene in Legends of the Fall, a movie we had no right to be seeing. Nevertheless, courtesy of the fact that my old friend’s mom had no problem buying movie tickets for five underage girls, there I was, looking into those gleaming celluloid eyes and that golden hair and falling into knee-deep, eternal, I-will-name-my-firstborn-son-Tristan love with Brad Pitt. It was acute. So acute that I stood up from my seat and began to applaud him. (True story.) The efforts of my laughing friends to sit me down and halt my clapping were futile. I was done: officially a forever fan and poised to become Mrs. Pitt if a need for that ever presented itself.

These days, I have no adolescent Mrs. Pitt delusions, but of the few actors I admire, he’s one of them. (Seriously, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film I can talk about for days, if only for the cinematography and how the movie stayed with me long after it was over.) And so I leave you with a Pitt-related sigh. Happy Throwback Thursday.

Meanwhile, on L’Avenue des Champs-Élysées…

20140306-162348.jpg

See that grinning girl standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe? C’est moi. One of the best trips of all time. Off all time.

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