To my first love, Richard Hatch

RICHARD HATCH

Richard Hatch died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. He was 71. Reading the news, I felt as if I’d lost my first, dearest love. In a way I had. I have loved Richard Hatch since I first saw him on Battlestar Galactica when I was 11 years old in 1978. From the moment I saw his smile and those hazel-green eyes I was madly in love, and I stayed in love for the rest of my life. I’m not sure why, but there was something about his voice and those cheekbones that made my heart beat wilder than anyone else on the planet, even Johnny Depp.

While other girls decorated their lockers in Middle School with pictures of Scott Baio and Leif Garrison, I plastered mine with a collage of Richard Hatch. Richard in his Battlestar costume. Richard playing the guitar. Richard looking serious with his dark hair in a center part. Richard in a scene from The Streets of San Francisco. I collected everything I could find about him and kept all the clippings in a secret scrap book. My infatuation didn’t end; even after I graduated high school and went to college, I worshipped Richard Hatch. When I was 20, a jealous boyfriend found my scrap book and burned it. That relationship died, but my love for Richard remained steadfast.

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One day when I was living in San Francisco in 1991, I saw an add for an acting workshop taught by non-other than Richard Hatch. I stole the flyer and called the number to sign up, spending the last of my grocery money that month to be in the same room with my first true love. Then I spent the next two weeks trying to decide what to wear.

At last the day came. Wearing a green sweater, a jean mini-skirt, black tights and my Doc Martin boots, I entered the room and instantly hated my outfit. There he was, Richard Hatch. He wore faded blue jeans and a light blue, button-down shirt with the cuffs rolled up, revealing his beautiful forearms. Oh god, don’t stare at his forearms! He smiled and nodded as I walked in and I quietly found a seat on one of the folding chairs at the front of the room. Why am I the first person in the room? Thankfully more people entered, but I wished I’d actually said something rather than just staring at my feet.

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There were about 20 students and the class began with a short introduction. Richard explained the class was about finding your own, inner strength and talent to make you a better actor. We all introduced ourselves and when it was my turn I thankfully remembered my own name and said I was studying drama at San Francisco State. After introductions we formed a circle for warm ups and spontaneity exercises. There were more getting-to-know-you exercises, including one that required us to say the first thing that came to mind about the person directly across from us.

Paralyzed, I mumbled responses, growing more frightened as time went by. I can’t move in front of Richard Hatch!  I might faint in front of Richard Hatch! Does he know? Does he understand how badly I want to have his children? Oh my god I want to touch him! No, don’t touch him! That would be creepy. Don’t be creepy. Don’t look at him. Oh no, he wants me to look at him. He’s asking me a question. 

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“Sorry?” I asked.

“This seems like a challenging exercise for you, Terena.”

Oh my god he said my name! Richard Hatch knows my name! “I’m just a little nervous.”

“It’s okay. Everyone feels nervous sometimes. So this is what I want you to do.” He moved into the center of the circle and gestured for me to join him. Slowly I moved and stood beside him. Putting his hands on my shoulders, he said “Close your eyes.”

Richard Hatch is touching me! I closed my eyes and he gently spun me three times. Then he let go and said, “Put out your arm and point. Keep your eyes closed.”I did what he said. I would have jumped out the window if he said to. After a moment he said, “Now, spin once on your own, stop, open your eyes and say the first thing that comes to mind about the person you’re pointing at. Don’t second guess yourself, just do it.”

Taking a deep breath, I spun around and then opened my eyes. I was pointing directly at him. Dropping my arm, I just stared at him in horror. A few people laughed and one person said, “Come on. You can do it.”

Richard smiled kindly. “What do you want to say?”

“I’ve been in love with you since I was eleven years old!” I said loudly.

There was a pause, then the entire room cheered.

Richard blushed and grinned. “Now that took guts,” he said. We both laughed and he gestured that I should rejoin the circle. The ice had broken. Finally relaxed, I enjoyed the rest of the class and learned quite a lot about improvisation and trusting my acting instincts.

However, after class I gave him one of the awful, passionate poems I wrote in high school about him. I wish I hadn’t. He probably thought I was the weirdest stalker he’d ever met. Oh well, at least he knew my name.

Goodbye Richard. You will always have my heart.

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Why I loved Carrie Fisher, and it isn’t because of Princess Leia

As a kid in the 1970’s, I loved Star Wars. But that’s not why I loved Carrie Fisher. To me, Carrie Fisher was more than Princess Leia, an icon from my childhood. She was a strong, outspoken, honest and creative woman. She was a role model.

Carrie Fisher was a writer who shared her struggle with mental illness and addiction, but she did it with humility and humor. Sharing her story allowed others to laugh at their own struggles. She inspired me to write honestly. Speak the truth and don’t apologize, unless you really screwed up, then shout “I’m Sorry” with all your heart. And Carrie wasn’t afraid to fight. When people made fun of her for gaining weight it hurt, but she didn’t hide. Squaring her shoulders she responded with her usual strength and humor, and a loud “Fuck you.”

Carrie Fisher took no shit. Which is one of the reasons her death is so sad. Imagine how much more creative and outspoken she would have been at 80.

Thank you Carrie. I hope I can continue your example. Speak the truth. Laugh at yourself. Love with all your heart.

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An Introvert at Burning Man

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Dust storms. Non-stop music thumping inside my ears. Flashing, glowing, throbbing neon lights. So much light I can’t see the stars, even though we’re in the high desert where the skies should be black and clear. Hot sunlight bouncing off the white playa and slapping my eyes. The press of sweating, laughing, talking, dancing people all around me. Black Rock City: the city that beats Vegas in an insomnia contest.

What the hell am I doing here?

I came to Burning Man for the art and to see friends. The city is art, a temporary but living work of creative power. 70,000 people come together to build a city out of imagination and hard work. And then after a week, the city vanishes. There is nothing like it anywhere, and I wanted to walk the streets and experience all that raw creativity for myself. Maybe I’d take a little bit back with me.

But the constant press of noise and activity exhausted me. I longed for silence in a place where silence had been driven away. People come to Black Rock City to party and my desire for solitude was ridiculous. My camp mates were dear friends and I loved being with them, but I needed a little bit of calm. So I hunted for it.

On my first night, I found quiet at a saki bar. It was still filled with noisy partiers, but there’s something about warm saki on a chilly desert night that felt peaceful. The servers were cheerful and the other patrons relaxed. We were there to take a break from the chaos for a minute. A smiling Buddha statue above the bar gazed across the rollicking playa. It was the perfect stop to begin my plunge into the City.

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Throughout the city there are small, almost hidden, places of quiet. Not solitude, but quiet. I discovered tea houses where people could hide from the sun and wash the taste of dust from their mouths. A steam bath where you could  replenish your dried out skin. A wine bar in the back of a camp that served Pinot Noir under an awning covered in cooling tapestries. Small pieces of art scattered upon the playa that were just as beautiful as the larger installations, but attracted fewer people.

And then there was the Temple. It was always packed with people , but felt comforting. People spoke quietly, meditated, cried, and shared their grief. All along the walls and altars were tokens of love for people who had died. I stood with a crowd and silently cried, feeling the weight of a thousand broken hearts. But the weight didn’t crush me. Crying with everyone else felt less tragic than crying all alone in my room at home. We all grieve. We all struggle. The Temple is where we can give that grief away and find compassion.

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Of course I made a pilgrimage to Medusa. I kissed her metal lips and thanked her for her inspiration. I sprinkled her with a little water, more precious than perfume in the desert, and asked for her continued help as I rebuilt my struggling press. She shot fire from her snake hair. I wonder if that was a blessing or a curse?

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On the night “The Man Burned,” I chose to watch the spectacle from the third story of a camp a mile from the action. Standing on the platform surrounded by friends with the wind blowing dust across my face, I felt happy. Below us, the crush of 50,000 people pushed against the fires and filled the playa with beautiful chaos. I didn’t need to be down in it.

That’s the secret to surviving Burning Man as an introvert. Black Rock City is mainly built for and by extroverts. It stimulates every sense and pushes it to the extreme. Your skin will burn and crack, your eyes will sting, your ears will throb and your heart beat will triple. Your emotions will be manipulated and you’ll want to scream from joy and overexcitement all at once. Extroverts drop after a couple of days, completely exhausted. Introverts may want to drop after a few hours. My advice is to embrace your need for quiet and seek it. Stay out of the middle of the parties and crowds. The entire place is one giant party. Sipping tea in camp while watching a thousand bicycles race by is perfectly acceptable. When you’re ready, join the parade. Then jump out again.

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The city has a strange magic. I’ve found exactly what I needed when I needed it. On one night after walking miles with friends exploring art, I became bone weary. Introverts know the kind of tired I’m talking about. It’s not a physical exhaustion, it’s spiritual. I said goodnight to my friends who were planning to party til sunrise and hiked back to my camp. While dodging racing bicycles, I passed one camp and I heard the beginnings of “Dark  Side of the Moon.” The camp was quiet with a few people lounging or sleeping on couches. One couch was in a quiet corner and I sat down. I listened to the low music and looked out across the open playa where art cars cruised and people danced. Lights blinked and strobed against the blackness and I saw flames break the dark like lightning. I suspect the others in the camp were high while listening to Pink Floyd. I didn’t have to be. That’s a great thing about being an introvert: I don’t need drugs to get high. The beauty of the city and the soft music was all I needed.

 

 

New Orleans at Mardi Gras is a Southern Gothic Tale in Technicolor

from Krew of Muses gallery

Why is New Orleans so beautiful? Because the city is unique, fascinating, tragic, dramatic, eccentric, violent, happy, upbeat, decrepit and alive. There isn’t a street in that entire city that doesn’t tell a story. The people who live there take pride in those stories, and want to tell their own. Hell, they’ll go out of their way to make their own, the more fantastic the better. Music is a part of life and the food is all their own. The people of New Orleans know how to live while staring death in the face.

And oh my does that city know how to party! I spent my first Mardi Gras season in the French Quarter last week and came home hungover, dehydrated, exhausted and with a fat lip from getting hit in the face with a bag of beads thrown from a Bacchus float. Translation: I had one of the best times of my whole life.

Krew of Muses

The parades alone are worth the 2000 mile trip. The floats are decked out in brilliant colors and manned by Krew members who throw jewel colored beads into the crowd. My favorite was Muses, which is a more bohemian parade. The Krew of Muses is one of the newest Krew’s in town, but their gorgeous floats and fun marching bands have become a City favorite. Bacchus is an older, traditional Krew, and their floats are monstrous! Trailers pull gigantic floats depicting children’s literature, such as Harry Potter and Where the Wild Things Are. The music in the parades is performed by high school and college marching bands, and those kids can rock. Even at the end of the five mile parade route, the drums still pounded and the horns shook the ground we stood on.

The French Quarter is a mix of beauty and filth. Bourbon street is a mess, packed shoulder to shoulder with young, sex starved drunks hunting for beads. It made me think of Spring Break with an open bar. Not my scene at all, but the people watching was fantastic. I liked the side streets and neighborhoods off the Quarter where locals like to celebrate. Costumes and masks were the preferred attire, otherwise people liked to go mostly naked.

Bourbon Street

My husband is from New Orleans. We’ve planned to go for years, but circumstance and money kept stopping us. But this year we said “screw it” and bought our hotel room and flights. It’s one of those things you have to do, even if you think you can’t afford it. Adventure is important, and the beauty of New Orleans showing off her splendor is worth the price. She is proud of her Krews and music and food and happy to share it with you. She’ll also scam you out of your last dime so keep a hand on your wallet. New Orleans isn’t a polite princess waiting for you to dote on her; she is a Queen looking for a good time and someone to party with. Life and Death walk hand in hand, and if you say hello, one of them will buy you a drink.

Muses hate taxes

“I’m bored,” my Muse whines. “When will you be finished?”

“Taxes take time. I have to get this right,” I say.

“But you’re not doing your taxes yet. You’re just totaling receipts.”

“These receipts tell me how much money Medusa’s Muse has earned.”

“And lost.” She slumps into a chair.

I scowl at her. “Thanks for fixating on the losses.”

“This year hasn’t exactly been booming for your press.”

“That will change.”

“You say that every year.”

Ignoring her, I focus on the pile of receipts again. Does the receipt for photocopies go in the supplies pile or the promotion pile?

My muse kicks my chair. “This press of yours is sucking more than money. It’s sucking your creative energy.”

I sigh. “Why do you do this every year?”

“Do what?”

“Bitch and moan about the press every time I have to do bookkeeping?”

“Because there is nothing creative about bookkeeping.”

“True, there isn’t. But to be creative I need to also be pragmatic. Bookkeeping keeps the lights on.”

“But it takes too long. Why not hire someone?”

“Because that would take money, which you so kindly pointed out I don’t have.”

She crosses her arms and sulks. “I hate this part of publishing.”

“Everyone does.”

“During the Renaissance, you would have had a patron to take care of all those incidentals. He would have paid your taxes and provided you food and shelter, clothing and entertainment. All of your needs would have been taken care of, simply so you could create brilliant works of art.”

“Talk to Rick. Maybe he can get a fourth job and rescue me from all this toil.” I clip a stack of receipts together and then label them postage.

“Don’t you want to take a break and work on your play?”

“Yes, I do, but I have to get this done first.”

“But…”

Swiveling in my chair to face her, I snap, “If you don’t stop interrupting me I’ll never get this done, which means I’ll never get to work on my play.”

She regally stands, looks at me, and in a calm voice says, “Don’t forget you have a deadline on your play. You told UPT you’d finish the rewrites this week.”

“I know.”

“I’ll leave you to it then.” With a toss of her snake tresses, she softly walks from the room.

Muses!

Where was I? Crap, I know I have more receipts for travel. Where’s the one from the dinner in October