Monday, October 27, 2008

gjc - Frog Town Diva

I’ve been out of commission due to a particularly virulent sinus infection that sent me to my doctor’s office seeking antibiotics (believe me, I’d rather do anything than see my doctor, the head of the weight-loss program at the Toledo Clinic!). He checked my heart rate and my respiratory rate, asked if my chest hurt after I told him it was congested, and refused to comment on the good blood pressure reading the nurse got (the man insists that I have high blood pressure just because it shot up to stroke level when I stupidly took some natural energy pills that are more potent than ginseng!), the fact that I no longer take the hypertension medication he prescribed (hey, it’s almost $100 a month and I no longer have health insurance!), or the ten pounds I lost (never mind that I only lost weight because I had chills and fever for a week and eating was out of the question!). He just prescribed my medication and told me to be sure I take the antibiotics all ten days and call him back next week if I don’t feel better.

Well, I just finished day five of the antibiotics and I’m beginning to feel better. Since yesterday, everything I eat and drink stopped tasting like cough syrup, so I’m eating and getting my strength back after losing another ten pounds or so (my doctor would be so proud!). I’ve never gotten this sick from a sinus infection. I only went to the doctor because I knew I was just days away from getting bronchitis. I had that a lot about ten years ago when I was younger, stronger, and had a better immune system. Well, that stuff can turn into pneumonia and ever since my best friend died with pneumonia from complications of a disease called Behcets that compromised her immune system, I don’t take chances that might end up with me getting pneumonia.

The closest I ever came to getting pneumonia was in 1993, when I got a really bad case of the flu that had me in bed for nearly two weeks (this sinus infection has had me in bed for ten!) and I was delirious from fever. For three consecutive nights, I saw tens of thousands of angels fly past my window. They looked like glowing clouds and I didn’t realize they were angels until I read someone else’s account of seeing angels in clouds in one of those books about angelic encounters. But I was delirious, so those couldn’t have been angels, could they? I hate being sick, so I’m using every natural medication I can (can’t afford the prescription kind, not that I’m that fond of prescription medication, although I continue to take the Lipitor my doctor prescribed for my slightly high bad cholesterol and slightly low good cholesterol – I’ll concede he’s right about that anyway) and plan to try to eat at least one meal with vegetables (probably in soup) every day this winter. I’ve got too much to do to be sick!

Recently, I reverted to form and was ready to cut and run when I realized that my efforts to support the Toledo talent that I so admire in an active way is futile at best and self-defeating at worst. I will be leaving Toledo figuratively, if not literally, because I give up after years of spending my own money to support Toledo talent on doing anything else in that area. I will continue to give support by going to events that I can get to (I have the ongoing problem of getting other people from here to support talent from here so I can get a ride to local events), but no more of my money will be spent promoting anything or anyone in Frog Town. I’ve decided to let someone else do the African Market I’d hope to organize to showcase local entrepreneurs and artists and instead will put my considerable energy into promoting my own work. I am currently re-writing a play and thanks to my good friend, Pastor Bob Veersteg, I recently received an in-depth critique of it from a Broadway actor/playwright/director who was a student of Pastor Bob’s.

I plan to pour over the specious notes and suggestions given by this theatre professional and continue re-writing my play and expanding my horizons beyond Toledo. I love the city and the people, but I’ve finally concluded there’s nothing I can do here that won’t be questioned, criticized, or even resented, so why try? I’ve given all I can afford to give to causes I’ve deemed worthy and will put all of my efforts in the city toward providing the best service I can to the agency for which I provide consultation. I am currently seeking a grant to provide visual arts instruction for adults with cognitive disabilities using local artists. This is a national trend, so, hopefully, I will be able to locate funding. A considerable amount of money is needed to provide materials for painting, salaries for the artists/teachers, creating a gallery, and launching a unique ‘art business’ unlike the ones usually created for individuals with disabilities based on a presumption that all individuals with artistic aspirations have talent in this area. I also have some other ideas for adult day hab programming that I am trying to get funded.

And, of course, there’s my new business that will take a lot of my time and energy. I want to start a business in Toledo for a number of reasons. Primarily, it’s a good business community and I have an excellent business partner who is rooted in this community. As an artist who likes to remain under the radar, so to speak, Toledo is the ideal location for me. Considering the anonymity successful business people and artists are able to maintain here, I think I have found my home, since I prefer to be reclusive and not in the public eye. Two examples of how one can get lost in Toledo involve the African-American CEO of a major corporation who lived here for years, but about whom I’ve only seen one newspaper article in the twenty years I’ve been here and the Broadway star I’d never have met had it not been for David Carter.

When I lived in Wichita, Kansas, an incredibly talented African-American woman named Karla Burns attended Wichita State University as an undergraduate while I was a graduate student there. Karla’s best friend, Robyn and I became good friends when I served as assistant director of two plays Robyn did at a local repertory theatre: “Godspell” and “Man of La Mancha.” My first play, “The Race,” a musical based on Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” with Uncle Remus characters, had a role written for Karla. She never played it because she went off to Broadway after graduating and got the first role she auditioned for – a supporting role in a revival of “Showboat.” By the time I moved to Ohio in 1983, Karla had been nominated for a Tony Award. Years later, when I sang with David Carter’s group for about a month, a former student of Mr. Carter’s came to one of our rehearsals to visit and it turned out he was Karla’s co-star in “Showboat.” Now, back in Wichita, Karla returned home the conquering hero and became the star of the city’s summer musical theatre series, which I always attended while I lived there.

Karla Burns is as famous in Wichita as Katie Holmes is in Toledo, but does anyone know Alton Coleman and, if you do, did you know he was in “Showboat” on Broadway or that he starred in a European production of “Cats” that I think he is still doing? African-American achievers in Toledo are often overlooked, even by the African-American community (we couldn’t even fill up a room to celebrate Art Tatum’s birthday at the Kent Branch library this year, even with a live jazz performance!) So, yes, I’m home! Toledo is the best refuge for a reclusive soul like myself who’d just as soon lock myself in my house with my computer and type plays to send out to Chicago, New York, and other far off places where someone might actually appreciate them and maybe produce them (I did have two out of three entries in the Chicago Dramatist Workshop’s “Ten Minute Play” festivals accepted for staged readings and critiques in 1993 and 1994). Here I’ll never have to worry about being something as trite as a celebrity. Thank God! I hate celebrity. Look what it did to poor Joe the Plumber!

All I want is a quiet place to write, good friends to hang out with once in a while (although my friends do complain because they don’t see me much sometimes), and the ability to curb my excitement about all of the tremendous talent here in Frog Town. I may have to enter a twelve-step program. I think if I take it one day at a time, I can conquer my addiction to Toledo talent and not feel the need to promote it with my own money, then feel used, depressed, and unloved when my efforts are unappreciated and unwanted. Pray for me. I have to kick this habit and I think I can with God’s help and a healthy dose of putting my own needs first and using my money to promote ME, not someone else. Meanwhile, I’ll see you online. If you don’t see me in person, don’t despair. I promise I’m not leaving and I won’t become a recluse, well, not a real one. As much as I’d like to lock myself in my house and not come out for at least a year, I have obligations.

So, I’ll be around. You may not see me, but I’ll be here. I’m not going anywhere any time soon. And if you do want to see me, you might find me at Ruby’s Kitchen, my favorite Toledo restaurant. I am constantly trying to convince someone to let me 'take' them to Ruby’s for lunch or dinner and they always like it when they acquiese and go with me. It’s sometimes a hard sell, but I’m persistent. I know, old habits are hard to break. I can’t help supporting African-American businesses. It’s just in my nature. I guess some habits persist even when you’ve admitted you’re an addict and have vowed to quit. Some things I just can’t give up, however, and Ruby’s is one of them! So, look for me there or at Kwanzaa (if I’m in town) or at the next African-American play written by a Toledoan (I missed JuJuan Turner’s latest because I was in bed with that fever!). I still love Toledo’s African-American talent. However, the only money I’ll spend on it in the future will be the price of a ticket or a good meal at Ruby’s. I do hope someone does start that African Market. If you do, I promise I’ll be there purchasing products from local African-American entrepreneurs and artists with all that money I’m going to make now that I’m promoting me!

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